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Christopher Eccleston: Conservative policies will be the end of working class actors like me. [1 Attachment]
He is one of Britain's most successful actors, so why does Christopher Eccleston think the working classes are being excluded from the arts? He talks to Finlay Greig.
Christopher Eccleston has always been known as straight-talking. It's why when he says that he is part of a disappearing breed of working class actors you know that he's not just after easy headlines.
"People like myself, Sean Bean, Maxine Peake – there's not going to be people like us coming through in 20 years," says the Salford-born 53 year old, who has just starred in the third and final season of HBO's The Leftovers.
"The situation is not improving. It's getting worse and worse. All areas of the arts are becoming ivory towers. It's always been a policy of the Conservative government to destroy working class identity. Due to student debt, we are being excluded. You can't get into drama school if you're from a council estate. You can't afford it. If you prevent them from having a cultural voice which is what's happening, they achieve that."
It's not the only thorny issue on which Eccleston has much to say. In the Leftovers, which opened three years after 140m - two per cent of the global population - had done a mass disappearing act, he played Matt Jamison, a former reverend struggling to understand why he wasn't taken. Each episode brings a tidal wave of existential crisis. However, Eccleston says that questions raised by the show weren't new for him.
"These are questions I've been carrying around with me for life," he says, adding the hyper-religious Jamison is quite the opposite to him. In fact Eccleston, who describes himself as "peace loving atheist", doesn't appear to have much truck with organised religion, adding: "We've had an industrial revolution, we've had a digital revolution, now we need a spiritual revolution."
While in the flesh, his northern accent is very much intact, of late he has been forging a career on the other side of the Atlantic and thanks to his latest role, there are many who think he is a New York native.
"The only criticism of my accent has come from British viewers. Nobody's picked me up on it in America, but in Britain people are going to pick me up on it because I'm part of the furniture over here, you just can't please everybody. The point for me was to please the American producers and the casting producers and I can tell you for a fact that has worked because I'm receiving work offers over there."
Whatever, he thinks about the current political situation he hasn't done bad as a working class actor and over the last 20-odd decades has notched up some notable roles. There was Shallow Grave and Our Friends in the North in the early 90s, 28 Days Later in 2002 and a few years after that he landed perhaps the most sought after job on television, playing Doctor Who.
"It was different for me in the Eighties and look what I've achieved," he says. "Look what Sean Bean's achieved. Look what Maxine Peake's achieved. "But there's not going to be the numbers in 20 years, and it's the same for people of colour who come from that background. We're moving towards a white culture, but we live in a multi-cultural society."
Eccleston is talking not long after Jeremy Corbyn's vow that he would wipe out student debt if Labour came to power. While he hasn't yet had to make good on the promise it was a popular manifesto pledge and one which was at least in part responsible for the huge youth vote that followed Corbyn to the ballot box at last month's General Election.
"I have my problems with Corbyn, but the idea that you have to pay for your education?," adds Eccleston. "It didn't happen to me. It's a policy to exclude the working classes educating themselves, and realising the corruption that goes right up to the top of the Conservative Party."Sent from my iPad__._,_.___
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Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Friday, 30 June 2017
The big names lining up for a blockbuster King Lear: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Jim Broadbent among stellar cast for BBC2 adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Not OT.
Anthony Hopkins will play Shakespeare's King Lear as an 'English Stalin' in a BBC TV film that will also feature powerhouse actresses Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh as his daughters.
Jim Broadbent and Jim Carter will play Lear's war ministers Gloucester and Kent in the BBC2 film, to be directed by theatre and film giant Richard Eyre.
Andrew Scott, who is busy playing the Bard's mixed-up Dane in the Almeida's production of Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre, will be Edgar — who becomes Lear's secret protector. Christopher Eccleston will play Oswald.
It's as formidable as the company Eyre (a former artistic chief of the National Theatre, who's equally at home behind the camera) assembled when he filmed 2015's The Dresser for the BBC with Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson, Sarah Lancashire and Vanessa Kirby.
Hopkins played 'Sir', a veteran thespian who carries on delivering his Lear as Luftwaffe bombs rain on the house. His remarkable performances during those excerpts started people thinking about the possibility of a full-scale Lear.
The deals are still being finalised, but Oscar-winning Thompson, so good in forthcoming Netflix film The Meyerowitz Stories, is to play Goneril. Watson, soon to be seen in Dominic Cooke's film of On Chesil Beach, will play Regan. And the fast- rising Pugh (fiercely fine in the film Lady Macbeth) will be Cordelia.
I was on the set of The Dresser at Ealing Studios when Carter, who was filming Downton Abbey on the sound stage next door, came visiting and joked that he'd like to be offered a part in Eyre's next project. And now he has.
Eyre's adaptation of Lear is a contemporary one, set in 'the fictional present', with the tyrannical Lear using the Tower of London as the base for his military dictatorship. In his tunic, buttoned to the neck, the old king is likened to an 'English Stalin'.
Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman, who produced The Dresser, are also involved.
Rehearsals start in September, and filming in October. Lear is part of a series of TV versions of stage classics, starring major names.
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