How acting is becoming an elitist profession in UK

  • AFP, London
  • Updated: Feb 19, 2015 18:47 IST

The backgrounds of Oscar hopefuls Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne have fuelled a running controversy ahead of Sunday's awards ceremony over whether acting is becoming an elitist profession in Britain.

Several industry legends have weighed in on the debate.

Michael Gambon, famous for playing wizard Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series, sees no problem in the trend.

"The more Old Etonians the better, I think!" he said, referring to the prestigious alma mater of Prince Harry and Prince William that costs over £34,000 (46,000 euros, $52,000) a year to attend, well over the British average yearly salary.

"It's to do with being actors and wanting to do it. It's nothing to do with where they come from," Gambon told Radio Times.

Redmayne, nominated for Best Actor for his performance as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, was a classmate of Prince William at Eton.
The Avengers villain Tom Hiddleston is a fellow alumnus, along with Homeland star Damien Lewis, Dominic West of The Wire, and 19 British prime ministers including David Cameron.

The school has lavish drama facilities, including a 400-seat theatre with an orchestra pit and revolving stage, and puts on over 20 productions a year -- some of which go on to be staged at the Edinburgh Fringe arts festival.

Some have expressed concern that connections and wealthy parents tip the balance in favour of the privileged, especially when it comes to costly drama schools and living through months of auditions and unpaid work.

Theatre actor and James Bond star Judi Dench has said that she regularly receives letters from aspiring young actors begging for financial assistance.

"Anyone who's in the theatre gets letters countless times a week asking for help to get through drama school," Dench told the Observer.

"You can do so much, but you can't do an endless thing. It is very expensive."

Dench lamented the demise of the repertory theatre, where an acting company performs different plays in rotation but featuring the same cast, saying it left young actors with expensive acting school as their only option to train.

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