Sir Ian McKellen calls for a living wage for actors

Star said actors deserve the same economic recognition as low-paid workers

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The Independent Culture

Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a “living wage”, Sir Ian McKellen has claimed.

The Lord of the Rings star said actors deserved the same economic recognition as other low-paid workers. A recent report found just one actor in 50 earned more than £20,000 a year.

“Most actors are not rich – they are very poor indeed. What keeps them going is that they just love the job,” Sir Ian told Radio Times.

He said: “I know actors who have had to turn down good roles because they just don’t pay enough. It’s hard. The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theatres that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference.”

The “living wage” currently stands at £8.80 an hour in London. It is a figure which ticket sellers and ushers at the Brixton Ritzy in south London have been striking every Sunday for, for three months.

Video: The battle over the living wage

With his roles in blockbusters including Lord of the Rings and the X-Men films, Sir Ian admits he no longer has financial concerns.

The actor, who earned £6m for his work on the Hobbit films, said: “Money is a factor in my life but it’s not a major factor. I’ve never had to worry about it – I learnt very early on to pay my taxes on time and live within my means, which has served me well. And I haven’t had to bring up a family and I don’t have dependents.”

Sir Ian, who appears in the Radio 4 Classic Serial, Eugénie Grandet, this weekend, urged the BBC not to neglect radio drama.

He said: “There’s a lot less radio drama around now than when I grew up, which is a great shame. I was very dependent on it. There was more drama on television, too, but it’s all changed a great deal. It’s very expensive.”

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