Ian McKellen Believes There Should be a “Living Wage” for Stage Actors


While ticket sellers and ushers at the Brixton Ritzy in London have been striking every Sunday for higher wages over the last several months, acting legend Sir Ian McKellen believes there are others who do not earn what they deserve: actors.

McKellen believes that stage actors are deserving of a “living wage” because they are fueled more by their passion than by pay. He explains, “Most actors are not rich – they are very poor indeed. What keeps them going is that they just love the job.” He continues, “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.”

Unlike many other stage actors, McKellen doesn’t have to worry about money after starring in two of the biggest film franchises of the last two decades: The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and X-Men. He points out, “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.” Yet he understands others are not as lucky.

According to McKellen, one of the isses is that there is less dramatic work on television and on the radio. He recalls, “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.” In fact, that final sentence points out a key reason why McKellen’s hope for a “living wage” for actors might be futile — production costs continue to rise.

While it’s obviously a noble idea, the question is how something like this would even work. Many of those repertory theaters that McKellen speaks of survive on the generosity of patrons. In those cases there often isn’t room in the budget for anything beyond the bare necessities. Because of that, it isn’t the same case as workers at a corporation worth millions or billions striking for higher pay. In the instance of repertory theaters, there might be nothing left to give. In other words, it would require a lot more than just wishful thoughts of a beloved actor.

via The Independent

1 Comment

  1. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    August 7, 2014 at 7:02 am

    The fact that a living wage for actors isn’t considered a part of the “bare necessities” is what’s sad. You can strip away the lights the costumes and the scenery and still have a performance. But the pay scale doesn’t reflect that.

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