Sir Ian McKellen calls for a living wage for actors

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

Adam Sherwin
Tuesday 22 July 2014 13:01
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Sir Ian McKellen has called for a living wage for actors
Sir Ian McKellen has called for a living wage for actors

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.

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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