I Was Keira's 'Plus One'. but I Wasn't Enough of an Alpha Male to Keep Her; as Keira Knightley Finds a New Love, the Last Man on Her Arm Tells of Their Two-Year Affair and the Terrible Tensions That Caused It to End

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 26, 2006 | Go to article overview

I Was Keira's 'Plus One'. but I Wasn't Enough of an Alpha Male to Keep Her; as Keira Knightley Finds a New Love, the Last Man on Her Arm Tells of Their Two-Year Affair and the Terrible Tensions That Caused It to End


Byline: LAURA COLLINS;SHARON FEINSTEIN

WHEN Keira Knightley steps on to the red carpet at the Oscars ceremony next weekend, she will - at the tender age of 20 - cement her burgeoning reputation as a genuine A-list Hollywood star.

Knightley is a favourite to win the Best Actress statuette for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride And Prejudice. But missing from the glittering Academy Awards spectacular will be Jamie Dornan, the Ulster-born model, actor and musician who was Keira's inseparable companion until they split up three months ago.

Keira has found new love with her Pride And Prejudice co-star Rupert Friend, who played the dastardly Mr Wickham. But 23-year-old Jamie, who makes his own acting debut as Marie Antoinette's love interest in Sofia Coppola's biopic of the French queen later this year, admits the separation still feels 'like a bereavement'.

Jamie, a talented singer with a haunting voice, insists he is pouring all his energies into his as yet unsigned band Sons Of Jim, which he formed with former schoolfriend David Alexander. Two nights after the Oscars, he insists he won't be moping - he will be performing at The Cobden, a fashionable private London club.

But as he speaks for the first time about the split, it is clear the wounds are still raw. His account of the romance casts a fascinating light on what it is like to be the 'plus one' in a celebrity obsessed world - the partner of a star who suddenly becomes an instantly recognisable face.

Jamie sadly acknowledges that the huge discrepancy in their status, careers and earning power - Keira is expected to make more than [pounds sterling]50million within the next few years - had caused irreconcilable tensions in their two-and-a-half-year relationship.

HE SAYS: 'There is a big pressure when you go out with someone like Keira.

You can feel a bit second-rate and that's what started to happen.

It's not like I was bringing the bread to the table - and that can start to affect everything.

The man is meant to be the Alpha in the relationship on the money and power front and clearly I was not. You feel you have to be dominant in other areas and that leads to problems.

'If the person with you in a relationship has more power in terms of occupation, they don't want to think, "Oh, he must find it really awkward because I make loads of money."

So you have to try to keep that awkwardness to yourself and still be the man in the whole thing, which I think I sometimes didn't do very well. But you live and learn.

'Keira could see what I was going through and it would have been better if I'd kept it hidden from her. It's a slow process, trying to be this Alpha Male.

I'm in the early stages but I think I'm getting there.'

Sitting in a fashionable cafe in London's Maida Vale, Jamie is dressed in very low-slung, threadbare jeans, fluorescent-green socks, trainers and a floppy sweatshirt. As befits a man who has a modelling contract with Dior, he looks effortlessly cool, despite his thrown-together outfit.

He is likeable, naturally soft-spoken and reluctant to speak badly of a woman he clearly once adored - and perhaps still does. He struggles politely to analyse the doomed romance.

'The person who finally said, "OK. That's it. I've had enough," was Keira,' he acknowledges sadly. 'But I think it was the culmination of many factors and, of course, we're both so young. It has been my only long-term relationship. The word "marriage" scares me, but who doesn't think of that kind of thing after a certain amount of time? But I'm just too young.'

Perhaps it was inevitable that Keira and Jamie would separate. Always ambitious, she badgered her parents to find her an agent when she was just six years old and made her first TV appearance at eight. By the time she was 16, she was starring in Gurinder Chadha's phenomenally successful British movie Bend It Like Beckham and was catapulted into the international limelight with films such as Pirates Of The Caribbean with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, Richard Curtis's Love Actually, and The Jacket with Oscar-winner Adrien Brody. …

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