Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan has said he "takes issue" with the Fifty Shades film franchise being perceived as a "bit of a joke".

The 39-year-old starred as billionaire Christian Grey alongside Dakota Johnson, who starred as Anastasia Steele in the film trilogy adapted from author EL James' steamy books.

The three films have brought in more than a billion dollars at the box office and James’ first book in the series, Fifty Shades Of Grey, broke sales records following its release.

Asked if he regretted taking the part of Grey, the Belfast actor said: "Look, put it this way: it’s done no harm to my career to be part of a movie franchise that has made more than one billion dollars. Every working actor would say the same thing. It’s provided – a lot.

"There’s no shame in saying it’s transformed my life and my family’s life financially. I am very, very grateful for this and always will be. And the fans loved it."

Referencing a critic who he said "didn’t love it", he went on to add: "But I take issue with the whole thing being just a bit of a joke. Everyone involved worked as hard as they could on those films, including myself."

Sons Of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam was first cast in the leading role but withdrew citing a "busy schedule", and later revealed in an interview he became overwhelmed by the amount of work he had taken on.

Speaking about Hunnam being cast first, Dornan said: "I was beaten to it the first time by Charlie Hunnam and I felt a certain amount of relief when he got it, to be honest.

"I thought: 'This would have been fun, but it would have been a strange ride. Better not to be on that ride.’ But he pulled out and then I got a call. And I got it. And there we go. I had to confront that choice again."

Before his acting career took off, Dornan was making waves in the modelling world, with notable campaign appearances including Calvin Klein adverts alongside Kate Moss and Eva Mendes.

But he said he did not "love" modelling, saying to British GQ: "And I still don’t like having my photograph taken. I find it odd. I find it an unnatural thing to happen. It’s not fun to be told continually to move your head about like it is on a swivel.

"I struggled with, let’s say, the energy. There’s too much vanity and it just feels douche-y as f***. Too much nonsense. Whenever I went on a date or met a girl in a pub or whatever, I’d say I was a landscape gardener or worked for Google – anything but admit to having my photograph taken for a living."

Dornan stars on the first of six magazine covers dedicated to GQ Heroes.

Source: Press Association