[OP note: For those on mobile, be aware that your screens may temporarily be hijacked by Gremlins and run on molasses. Enter at your own risk. Gif usage is in effect. PICS AND TEXT HEAVY!]
We’ll take the customers that we can get. We’ll not discriminate great from small.
Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out!
Stars & Celebrities Who Grew Up Skint
& Know Their Shit
“Brits now live in a country that is determined by the classification system.”
Baby Boomer: 1946 – 2016
Being that January 14th was the four-year anniversary of his death (silently crying into my bowl of basic Raisin Bran), the late and great King Alan Rickman was known for his distinctive baritone voice and coolly played, sarcastically intelligent characters. Yet far from the suave, classically-educated, fashionably suit-obsessed Hans Gruber (you really German, boy ‘cause you ain’t foolin’ anyone with that accent, honey?), Alan’s upbringing bears little resemblance to his array of middle to upper-class characters. (Naturally, less than well-to-do actors playing posh characters doesn’t have the same implications if it were in the reverse. Alan’s RADA training likely gave him a boost above the rest over other actors from deprived backgrounds. Director of RADA Edward Kemp said to the Independent in 2014: “We train people to transform. Some of the actors that people think of as middle class aren’t. Ben [Whishaw] is not middle class, nor [sic] is Gemma [Arterton]. The fact they can take those roles is because we’ve trained them to do it. […] We’re sometimes the victim of our own success, and a lot of actors will go to where the work is, which is largely middle-class roles. It would be great to have another working class drama but where are those stories being told? They’re not.” Alex Andreou for the Guardian argued he’s only half-correct.)
Born on the other side of the wealth system at the beginning of the baby boom, Alan was raised in a largely single-parent home in a semi-detached council house on Lynton Road in Acton, West London with his two brothers and sister. His father, Bernard sadly died of lung cancer when he was eight (apparently, his dad was fairly young, too).
He stated in a personal 1998 interview for the Guardian that his mother, Margaret (nee Bartlett) eventually remarried in his teens though the marriage lasted no more than three years. Both his parents came from working-class roots (of Irish Catholic and Welsh Methodist backgrounds from Fulham and Glamorgan, respectively) where his father was an aircraft fitter during World War II, factory worker, painter and decorator. He revealed in a candid German interview in 2011 that when his mother was widowed, she worked various odd jobs to make ends meet. He reflected, “[My family] were very aware of what things cost. You could not simply snap your fingers and get what you wanted. We Brits now live in a country that is determined by the classification system. But I guess my background and my childhood—what they taught me—is how it has shaped me. Only material things [were missing]. Otherwise, I got everything what I needed: love and the encouragement to be myself. My father was missing to me, naturally. [My mother] took up a number of jobs. Cleaning offices, working as a telephone operator, she even sat at a sewing machine and sewed covers for car seats. She did what she had to do in order to feed us children.” The Great British Class Survey places cleaners and service jobs under “precariat,” “emergent service sector” or “traditional working-class” depending on income.
According to a sketchy unauthorised biography by Daily Fail writer Maureen Paton, Alan’s mum reportedly also worked for the Post Office near Wormwood Scrubs Prison where the council rehoused the family following her husband’s death. The Great British Class Survey places postal workers in the “new affluent workers” of the working-class, though the classification would have been different in the ‘50s; in 2011, they made up 15 percent of the population. Alan remained open with how close he was to his mother, saying, “My mother was an exceptionally talented singer. She even had a few appearances, but then my father died, and we had no money. Thus, a career never came from it. I often think, how unfair that was.”
At age eleven, Alan won a scholarship through the direct grant system (which was abolished in 1975-76 during the mid-70s recession) in order to attend the highly selective and posh Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith (formerly an all boys’ direct-grant grammar institution, it is now independent and co-educational, seeing the likes of Imogen Poots and Toby Regbo as fellow alumni). The posh environment was an adjustment. He said in 1998 to the Guardian, “You find yourself becoming middle class, and you have to deal with that. You feel guilty and you have to come out the other side of that.” Obviously, Alan wouldn’t have paid these fees (of course the value of the British pound sterling would have been different in the post-war era—during World War II in 1940, £1 was the equivalent to $4.03; in 1966, the pound was converted to a decimal currency and in 1967, £1 was the equivalent to $2.40; the conversion would vary today and since the UK voted to exit the European Union, equity values have dropped significantly by $2.5 trillion as of June 2016); but simply for our reference to track what students pay now, the term fees for Latymer like most independent schools [applied to 2019/20] is £6,945 and roughly £20,835 a year.
There, Alan took up lessons in the arts and got his start performing in plays before continuing his education at 18 for a graphic design degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design (now Chelsea College of Arts a part of the University of Arts London) and the Royal College of Art. For the Foundation Diploma at Chelsea, UK / EU students over 19 years of age [applied to 2019/20] pay £5,280 (+£140 awarding body registration fee); and £16,060 for international students. In 2020/21, international students will pay £18,300 (+registration fee). He performed in amateur theatre with the Brook Green Players and Court Drama Group and once he left school, he worked at his graphic design studio in Soho (with the most ArTsY hIpStA nAmE EVA), Graphiti and as assistant stage manager at the Basement Theatre Company. In 1972, aged 26 he won a second scholarship and studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he supported himself by freelancing in graphic design and working as a wardrobe assistant for Nigel Hawthorne and watched Sir Ralph Richardson perform. He said in 1991 to European Travel and Life, “[T]here was an inevitability about my being an actor since about the age of 7, but there were other roads that had to be traveled first.” To clarify, this doesn’t apply to Alan, but for our reference, tuition fees for a B.A. in Acting [applied to 2019/20] are £9,000 a year for home students (most universities when they became fee-paying in 1998 charge the standard of £9k per term). [OP note: Thank you to dandelion for schooling my dumb American ass in the last post!]
RADA, however, is interested in helping kids from families that earn an income of less than £25,000 a year. Alan was a supporter of his former school. In spite of this, the director Edward Kemp argued in 2014, “There is absolutely no evidence that people from poor backgrounds aren’t coming to drama school,” which he based strictly on the applicants sent to RADA since the twentieth century. 36 percent [OP note: out of 55,000 seats and 350,000 applicants] of students came from working-class backgrounds in 2013. In addition to class, the lack of opportunities for actors of colour often goes ignored (RADA graduate David Harewood, the son of a lorry driver and caterer from Barbados, has been a critic of this).
At the time of his death, Alan’s net worth in the US was estimated to be $16 million (my math skills suck, forgive me, but I want to say this is roughly £12.2 million). His assets in the UK were roughly more than £4 million (about $5.2 million). He had separate assets in Italy. Shockingly, this seems awfully low for such a veteran actor—even with that sweet Harry Potter money—but to be fair, Alan gave a shit ton away to funds and charities and no one can hate him for that
He said in 2011, “I owe everything to [winning the scholarship to Latymer]. I was allowed to go to a great school, where one was celebrated if you were interested in such two different things such as art and physics. Well, [physics] would have certainly not been my choice. […] My school had a large theatre tradition.” He added during a Muse of Fire interview in 2015, “You know, [theatre] seems still to be largely the preserve of the middle-aged, white middle classes. […] I feel a kind of Daily Mailness [sic] coming off. […] We [need to] make [theatre] cheaper. It’s got to be more of a priority.” On the money, Alan!
During his lifetime, Alan was a staunch Labour voter like his parents and wife, former councillor Rima Horton and a strong activist in a number of causes, including advocating for actors of colour and fighting against defunding of the arts (UK politics is an explosive battleground, but the Labour Party has in the past challenged the ridiculous audition fees of drama schools). Before he died, he founded the International Performers Aid Trust, which is “a charity created for the relief of poverty amongst people involved in the performing arts.” £25k of his assets went to the charity in his will.
“[What I want from success is to] still be out there as an actor doing something somewhere at 70,” he lamented in 1998.
# OKBoomer who? Alan wasn’t flawless per se, though considering the state of society white boomers should follow his example and of course, the world is far bleaker without him.
“I could [go to school] because I got a full grant.”
Baby Boomer: 1950
An acting giant of theatre and film, Fairy Godmother Dame Julie Walters has been relatively candid about her working-class childhood. She was raised in a terraced dwelling on Bishopton Road in Bearwood, Smethwick, an industrial town in Sandwell, the West Midlands (council housing was developed there in the late 1920s and like most homes during the ‘50s, there was no central heating). She is the youngest of five children. She has two older brothers (two siblings, a girl and boy, sadly died at birth). Her father, Thomas worked in a factory and the bar staff of a pub before becoming a builder and decorator. Her Irish Catholic mother, Mary (nee O’Brien) was raised on a farm in County Mayo, left school young and moved to England where she eventually found work as a clerical assistant for the Post Office; she later worked at Cadbury’s packing chocolates. Low-paid service sector jobs are considered to be the “emergent service sector” of the working-class by the Great British Class Survey. In 2011, they made up only 19 percent of Britain.
According to Julie’s accounts, her mother was a tough, traditionally-minded woman who was never quite satisfied with her daughter’s (or sons’) achievements (one of her brothers went to Cambridge). While Mary never received further education herself, she wanted nothing less for her children.
Julie has kept no secrets that she grew up in a deplorable area and in her 2008 autobiography That’s Another Story, she recalled that her mother wouldn’t allow her to venture to the park at the end of the road because untrustworthy men were known to prowl there. When she was ten, she along with two of her best friends and one of the friend’s little sister were sexually assaulted by a paedophile and nearly abducted whilst playing in the garden of an abandoned house by the bus stop. At the time, she didn’t fully comprehend what had been done to her (she thought the man touched them to determine their ages), though she would later experience night terrors. She said in 2016 to The Big Issue that Smethwick “is now one of the most deprived areas of the country.”
She was a pupil, rather unhappy, at a convent preparatory school in Birmingham run by “frightening” nuns—Julie described them as being “of the classic penguin variety” because of their uniforms. There, her mother was keen she’d pick up a ‘proper’ middle-class accent, but then she moved to the Holly Lodge Grammar School for Girls which she said in 2016, “sounds very posh.” While in prep school, Julie was ashamed of her working-class status: her accent, her home, her father’s occupation, her hand-me-down school uniform. Naturally, she envied the other girls in her class for being able to afford holidays to Italy. At Holly Lodge, however she found herself at home, expressing herself through comedy. “There wasn’t a nun in sight,” she stated happily. After leaving in her Lower Sixth (she was basically kicked out for being a shit student), she trained at 18 to become a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital—her mother’s wishes. After three years, Julie thought to herself, ‘Ah, fuck. I’m going to act.’ Receiving a college grant, she studied drama at Manchester Polytechnic (renamed Manchester Metropolitan University). She recalled, “Mum went mad, of course.”
In the 1970s, she made waves in the underdog rep theatre scene at the Everyman Theatre Company in Liverpool and performed in pub shows with many actors that would become notable figures, including Bill Nighy and the late Peter Postlethwaite. And for us stans, we all know she was besties with the good sis Victoria Wood (R.I.P. Queen). Unfairly and despite her seasoned status as an actress and comedian—a BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee AND published author—her estimated net worth is a pathetic $2 million (around £1.5 million) or according to other sources, $5.5 million (about £4.2 million). I mean, I don’t know about y’all, but there is some messed up shit with this picture. Like, what the absolute golden fuck?! Give Mrs Weasley her Potter money, Warner Bros! Disney needs to check themselves, too! What criteria, for those who are enlightened on these matters, does the UK go by to dish out paychecks to their oldest talent? Genuine question. Of course, I’m aware British, Australian and New Zealand unions don’t pay their boos residuals like their American homies and talent in these respective industries have (rightfully) not been quiet about it despite the complexities of equity rules.
Admirably, while it appears common for underprivileged actors to be pigeonholed into lesser roles reserved for their “type,” Julie reinvented the working-class character—notably as Angie Todd in the gritty 1982 Thatcher-era drama series Boys from the Blackstuff, the Liverpudlian hairdresser Susan (a.k.a. Rita) in Educating Rita and the tough dance teacher Sandra (a.k.a. Mrs Wilkinson) in Billy Elliot. In a 2015 interview for the Guardian, Julie went in with her views on Britain’s classist culture: “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today. I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now. Kids write to me all the time and I think, I don’t know what to tell you. Working-class kids aren’t represented. Working-class life is not referred to. It’s really sad. I think it means we’re going to get loads more middle-class drama. It will be middle-class people playing working-class people, like it used to be.” A Labour voter, she added, “I’d create proper grants for all working-class kids so they could go to drama school.”
In 2016, she elaborated, “I remember visiting my brother in Cambridge when I was 16 and thinking it was another world. I remember feeling quite angry at middle class people. Their privilege. ‘Middle class actresses? You should be fucking good, you have had all the privileges.’ Which is a load of rubbish, of course. Acting isn’t about that. Although nowadays, getting to drama school bloody is. People can’t afford it.”
Plus, a little tidbit: In 2015 on Graham Norton, she admitted she read the entire Fifty Shades horror series on her (then) new Kindle. “BUT by mistake, I didn’t know what I was getting!” Slay, Snow-Haired Queen.
“Culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part […] it’s also damaging for society.”
Gen X: 1979
The Scottish Prince who entered the world of acting almost by sheer accident was raised by his maternal grandparents from the time he was seven when his mother, Elizabeth “Liz” (nee Johnstone), a psychiatric nurse and his father, James McAvoy, Sr., a builder and roofer, divorced (they had been childhood sweethearts and had their kids young). He grew up with his younger sister in one of Glasgow’s roughest post-war housing schemes, Drumchapel (called ‘The Drum’ by locals) where his grandfather supported the family as a butcher. The Great British Class Survey classifies builders and carpenters as the “precariat” and assistive personnel as the “emergent service sector” of the working-class. In 2011, “precariat” only accounted for 15 percent of society.
While his grandparents, Mary and James instilled in him strong life values and he credits them along with his mother for giving him everything he needed, he shares a strained relationship with his father who he hasn’t spoken to since he was a kid. “I can’t really be bothered with it [perusing a relationship with my father],” James said in a 2006 interview. “If I was less secure in myself, I might be more interested. But I know what made me, I know why I am the way I am. […] I know what happened and I know what didn’t happen.”
Despite winning a place at the drama school the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now named the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), being a former member of PACE Youth Theatre and garnering sudden prestigious recognition for his work in 2007’s Atonement, James feels the most comfortable retaining a mundane lifestyle beyond the glitz and glam of red carpets. It should be noted he worked in a bakery to pay for drama school expenses; RCS charges £10,000 to £12,000 per year for rent and living costs on top of tuition fees [applied to 2019/20], though they offer scholarships.
Circa 2008, he lived with his then partner Anne-Marie Duff (also born poor) in a North London flat that cost £178,000. He was quoted: “I hate getting dressed up like this [for awards ceremonies]. I don’t like being flashy. I drive a Nissan Micra. […] I’m always worried that somebody is going to find me out and say: ‘Ach, you’re not as good as you thought you were. You are just a wee boy from Drumchapel’.” As a seasoned actor, his estimated net worth is $17 million (about £13 million). Like Alan Rickman, he donated a ton to funds and charities.
While his upbringing was far from comfortable, that didn’t stop James from feeling sickened by the poverty he witnessed in Uganda during shooting of The Last King of Scotland. “I used to think that [I had a tough upbringing]. I used to have a bit of a working-class chip on my shoulder, because the area I come from is so rough,” he said in 2008. He went on to support the British Red Cross for their work in Uganda.
In 2015, James was rightfully vocal about the dominance of privately educated actors in Britain, saying, “Whenever we talk about this we have to be very, very clear. There’s a lot of posh actors, that have been to boarding school and all that, who are feeling very embattled, sort of cornered. Nobody has got anything against an actor who is posh and is doing really well. But we are real [sic] worried about a society that doesn’t give opportunities to everybody from every walk of life to be able to get into the arts, and that is happening. […] That’s a frightening world to live in, because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part, and that’s not fair to begin with, but it’s also damaging for society.”
The same year, he contributed £125,000 to a scholarship programme at RCS to aid poor students. Bless this wonderful human being and we seriously don’t deserve him.
Seconds & Desserts:
Fortunately, it’s also clear that ev’rybody goes down well with beer.
[Spoiler (click to open)]
+Bonus #1 (Seconds): Star of Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (and numerous other indies, i.e. In America)—Samantha Morton directed, produced and co-wrote a semi-autobiographical made-for-television Channel 4 film on her childhood in 2009 starring a fairly young Molly Windsor, The Unloved. Vaguely, the film reminds me of the 1997 British ITV movie No Child of Mine starring a baby Brooke Kinsella (the themes are similar). The daughter of a factory worker Pamela (nee Mallek), Sam grew up in Nottinghamshire and spent her formidable years in and out of the relentless care system since she was a baby. When she was eight, her parents divorced. Her father, Peter was an alcoholic, physically abusive and absolute scum: he impregnated and married a 15-year-old girl who babysat Sam and her two siblings; she has six half-siblings from her parents’ relationships (although Sam, understandably, has a complicated relationship with him, idolizing him in some respects). Unable to take care of her, Sam was removed from her parents, made a ward of the court and placed in care (which her film touches upon). When she was 14, she was arrested for attacking a girl in a care home. At 13, 14 and 16, she was homeless and living in bus shelters and a hostel. She had an abortion in her teens and contemplated suicide. Throughout her life, she experienced drug, physical and sexual abuse. While in care homes, she attended the comprehensive school West Bridgford until she was 13, which she said she felt out of place at; it is located in an affluent area.
She said in 2009 to the Guardian: “The houses on that road are million-pound ones, yet I was living in a children’s home two buses away, where I was up most nights because of riots or sharing a room with a prostitute. You can’t get your homework done and you fall behind. […] I had a massive chip on my shoulder, like a big bag of McCains. I walked past the girls’ high school in Nottingham, a private school, and I’d see them bunking off [OP note: slang for skipping class], and I’d think, you twats, your parents are spending a fortune on your education. I was very bitter, I suppose. My appetite for knowledge and literature and music was massive. The reason I didn’t go to school was because, at that point, I’d already—excuse my language—fucked it because I’d run away so much when I was younger. […] [My anger was] never, never [directed at] my parents. Always authority. Always the establishment. That’s because I grew up in Nottinghamshire in the 80s with Margaret Thatcher destroying everything.”
In her recent film, “I Am Kirsty” for the I Am Channel 4 anthology series in which she played the lead, she explained in a 2019 Vanity Fair feature: “[What happens to the main character, a single mother who struggles to makes ends meet and contemplates sex work] this is happening to people right now who can’t get out of it. When you’re part of a subsection of society… you’re at the mercy of it. If you need to pay for medical bills, or in the U.K. it would just be your food and keeping the roof over your head, you’ve no other place to go. You’ve taken everything to the pawn shop and you’re at that last stage. I had experience with that.”
The Unloved went on to win a BAFTA TV Award (which I think is pretty deserving). She is a strong advocate for keeping state-funded children’s homes open, yet she expresses no regrets with working with Woody Allen on Sweet and Lowdown (which in early 2000 secured Sam’s first Oscar nomination).
Yikes. I’ve been a casual fan of her filmography since I was a kid and applaud her for her activism, but nobody’s flawless, I suppose?
Thanks to cyrindha for the suggestion!
[Spoiler (click to open)]
+Bonus #2 (Seconds): Star of Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank—Katie Jarvis has been relatively quiet in the acting scene since the indie drama’s 2009 release date, although for a time, she was uncertain if she wanted to continue working in entertainment. The East London-born (then) 17-year-old was spotted by chance by Arnold’s casting agent as she was arguing with her boyfriend at Tilbury train station in Essex (seeking ordinary underclass people with no acting experience is a common casting method by Arnold and her team). She got off the train in Upminster, was approached by the agent and was subsequently given an audition. Three auditions later, she secured the lead part as Mia. Having left school young (although leaving school at 16 in the UK is not unusual), she gave birth to her first daughter, Lily Mae in May 2009, prompting Katie, at 19, to miss the Cannes premiere of the film. She said to Evening Echo: “It was hard [doing the film], but it was rewarding. It shows you don’t have to go to drama school to get into it, but I think I was one of a kind. I don’t think anybody else will get picked off a train station.”
Katie’s on-screen mother Kierston Wareing also came from and underclass background (she lived in a caravan) and struggled to make it as an actress for a decade before working as a secretary to support herself. The Cannes premiere of Fish Tank was the first time she was lent a Prada dress and Chopard diamonds to wear for the red carpet (she went on to appear in EastEnders and Hollyoaks and has been nominated for a BAFTA and won British Independent Film Awards).
Katie, like her Fish Tank co-star, appeared in EastEnders in 2018. In spite of the fact that Katie seems to be living her life in the way she pleases (more power to her), that hasn’t stopped the wonderfully respectable British press from mocking her. In October 2019, Katie took a break from the acting world and was working as a security guard for a retail store in Romford, B&M Bargains. Now 28, Katie elegantly stood up for herself amid the “job shaming”: “That’s the life of an actor—I like to be busy and learn new things. […] As long as you’re working, that’s all that matters, no one should be shamed for what they do. The way the story was portrayed wasn’t very nice. It was quite nasty—to be made to feel degraded is wrong. Security guards put themselves at risk, there’s a lot goes into it. I feel I need to stand up for working class people.” Droves of entertainers came to her support on Twitter, including actress and comedian Kathy Burke. Bravo, Princess Katie for defending your integrity and character.
Thanks to all the nominations in Part 1:
Honourable Mentions (Desserts): St Catharine’s College alumnus—Sir Ian McKellen (who has been a big advocate for working-class actors and the dying art of rep theatre); RADA Fam—David Harewood, Clive Owen, David Morrissey, Ben Whishaw and Gemma Arterton;
Part 3: Stars & Celebrities Who Grew Up Posh & Understand Privilege
Starring Pocket Prince Daniel Radcliffe and Queen in the North Sophie Turner
Coming Soon to a Pie Shop on Fleet Street
The Rest of the Bonus Round + Honourable Mentions (from the nominations in Part 1) will be in Part 3!
(Because I ran out of characters lol)
Featuring Helena Bonham Carter, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Florence Pugh
Film Recommendations (British Cinema): Our Mother’s House (Drama, 1967; Dir. Jack Clayton); Kes (Drama, 1969; Dir. Ken Loach); Educating Rita (Drama, 1983; Dir. Lewis Gilbert); Naked (Drama, 1993; Dir. Mike Leigh) and Vera Drake (Drama, 2004); An Awfully Big Adventure (Drama, 1995; Dir. Mike Newell); Fridge (Short, 1995; Dir. Peter Mullan ) and his feature Neds (Drama, 2010); Trainspotting (Black Comedy, 1996; Dir. Danny Boyle); No Child of Mine (Drama, 1997; Dir. Peter Kosminsky); The Unloved (Drama, 2009; Dir. Samantha Morton)
More recs from BFI
Additional Source: 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68
Pics Source: Google, Tumblr, WizardingWorld.com (Pottermore)
Header Graphic: Me
Thank you to everyone who appreciated all the hard work that went into Part 1 and hopefully, the sequel delivers, too!
TL; DR If the rich were pastries, would they be more appetizing, ONTD?