Plus, Emily Blunt on working with John Patrick Shanley.

For many moviegoers, Jamie Dornan is most recognizable for playing the kinky billionaire Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy. But he feels a much greater kinship to his latest character, Anthony Reilly in John Patrick Shanley's Wild Mountain Thyme.

"He's much more relatable to me than Christian Grey," Dornan tells EW. "Oftentimes, I felt quite uncomfortable, being very honest with you, playing Christian Grey. I felt like it was very far away from me, and sometimes, I struggled with it. With Anthony, I just knew really early on I need to embody this guy, and it felt like someone I wanted to be close to. There was no distance there... It's cool to know that you can play a romantic lead that is very different from the more widely known romantic lead you played."

Dornan stars in the whimsical Irish rom-com opposite Emily Blunt as Rosemary Muldoon. The two characters have grown up together on adjoining farms, with Rosemary yearning after Anthony for years. When it seems that Anthony's father might bestow the family farm upon an American cousin (Jon Hamm), Rosemary wonders if Anthony will ever come out of his shell and recognize the love between them.

The movie is adapted from Shanley's play Outside Mullingar, which ran on Broadway in 2014. Neither Blunt nor Dornan saw the play, but both were "huge fans" of Shanley when they signed on, Blunt says. "He does have this unique ability to build a world that is so lyrical and otherworldly. He's a rather incomparable writer."

When it came to Shanley's directing, Blunt was surprised he wasn't more hands-on with the words he'd written. "He's very free-spirited in his approach, so you never feel straitjacketed by him," she says. "Which is quite rare, I think, sometimes when someone has written something, because whether they believe this about themselves or not, usually they've envisioned it a certain way and so you're having to kind of contort yourself to try and hit that. Shanley just has none of that possessiveness, and I think language is so dextrous and readily available to him that he genuinely forgets what he's written. So he's very un-precious about it because he could talk as poetically about the menu at a diner."

The film required Blunt and Dornan to adopt Irish accents (Dornan is Irish but doesn't naturally speak with the regional dialect he uses here). But Dornan admits that like so much of Shanley's writing, the film presents a heightened, whimsical view of the world. "It's a slightly gift-shop-at-the-airport idea of Ireland, where you can just buy green things and shillelaghs and leprechaun key rings and little miniature pints of Guinness," he quips. "There's an element of that in there. [But] if you can capture the soul of that land, and the goodness of the people and the uniqueness of the people and their ability to tell stories and show love and have heart, then you've captured it. And I think he did that."

For both Blunt and Dornan, Wild Mountain Thyme called on them to do any number of difficult things. Dornan had to carry Blunt up a slippery, muddy hill for their climactic love scene, though he reveals a little bit of movie magic: They built steps into the hillside. "Otherwise, I would be in hospital," he jokes.

Blunt's greatest challenge came in singing the Irish folk song that gives the film its title. Though she's appeared in several musicals, even playing Mary Poppins, she says she still gets incredibly nervous singing in front of people. But this required a more raw approach. "Shanley wanted to do a live version of the song, and that's what he used; even though we prerecorded it, he wanted the live version," she says. "It sounds like you're singing in a bar, and that's what it should sound like, and it humanizes it. This was a much more intimate experience."

The two also had to make sense of a rather odd twist in the film: Rosemary believes herself a swan, and Anthony is convinced he can't be with her because he thinks he's a bumblebee. "Shanley goes, 'Everyone thinks for something they're not.' And that was it, that was the only explanation," Blunt says. "Being a swan, I understand the history of it because it was what her father inspired her with, it was that idea of some kind of sumptuous escape for her to the ballet. The romanticism of the character, imagining that she's this absolutely stunning bird and wanting to be that, wanting him to see her as that, him being her prince."

Dornan says it was more difficult to wrap his head around his character's belief at first, but once they shot the scene leading up to the reveal — a lengthy, strained conversation in Rosemary's kitchen — it flowed out naturally. "It's like a 20, 25-page kitchen scene," he says. "We took three days to shoot it. And it was a joy. It was three of the best working days in my life, and we were so deeply entrenched in it all by then, convincing ourselves that we were these weirdos. I actually genuinely struggled to get those words out."

Blunt echoes this, saying it was all part of the magic of the experience of working with Shanley. Dornan "was so moving in that moment and genuinely did cry and was embarrassed and was vulnerable," she says. "That's just the beauty of what Shanley does, is that he truly takes you away to another place so that you just disassociate from yourself completely."

If this sounds a wee bit odd, Blunt and Dornan admit that it is. But they wouldn't have it any other way. "Some people just might not get this movie," Dornan muses. "They might just go like, 'I don't get, it's kind of mad. I've never seen anything like it.' But then people who get it will really get it, and they'll really fall for it. And Emily and I both got it and fell for it."

Wild Mountain Thyme is now available on demand and Amazon Prime Video.

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