Dornan, 31, is a Northern Irish actor best known in the U.S. for playing Sheriff Graham/The Huntsman on ABC's "Once Upon a Time." He's also a model who dated actress Keira Knightley for two years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He emerged as a front-runner for the part in mid-October.
Trade publication Variety broke the news Wednesday evening with reporter Justin Kroll telling TODAY, "This was just something that was planned very quietly and correctly, and that's why they were able to get this choice made before they had to start shooting next month."
"Sons of Anarchy" actor Hunnam had been announced as kinky billionaire Grey in September, but dropped out of the role on Oct. 12, with studio Universal saying it was due to scheduling conflicts. Fan backlash and creative differences over the script may have also played a role in Hunnam's decision to exit the role.
A survey taken by TODAY.com at the time of Hunnam's departure indicated fans favored either Ian Somerhalder or Matt Bomer as Grey; Dornan's name was not included on that survey.
Dornan will appear opposite actress Dakota Johnson, who will play female lead Anastasia Steele. The film's release is currently slated for August 1, 2014.
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