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Brian Cox: ‘Showbusiness sucks – it’s run by people I have little respect for’

Brian Cox. Photo: Douglas McBride
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Brian Cox has launched a stinging attack on the acting industry, saying it attracts “the worst people”.

The actor also said the sector had gone backwards in its accessibility to people from working class backgrounds, and claimed aspiring actors were being “held hostage to the fortune of their education”.

Speaking at a career retrospective at the Hospital Club, Cox referenced the “appalling” treatment of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who recently said at 37 she was told she was too old to be cast as the love interest of a 55-year-old man.

“That’s bollocks, and that’s bollocks thinking,” Cox said. “But I’m afraid this is this profession. It attracts the worst people. It attracts some of the best people, but it attracts many of the worst people. And they’re there, they’re like viruses. You’ve just got to avoid them.”

He went on to criticise the casting of big-name stars in an attempt to draw audiences, before adding: “I do not like this business. I like being in it, I like doing my job – I don’t like the business. I think the business sucks. Because it’s all run by people I have very little respect for. So you’re bobbing and weaving, you’re just trying to keep going and do your best work.”

Cox also railed against the lack of accessibility in acting for people from poorer backgrounds, and said that it is now increasingly hard to become an actor if you are not from a wealthy background.

“There are people nowadays who cannot get access to our profession. And I hate that. I hate that we have become so class-ridden in what we do. That you have to have wealth in order to be an actor – that’s bollocks,” he said.

He pointed to the 1950s and 1960s as a time when working-class actors thrived in the sector, naming Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, Tom Courtenay and Alan Bates as examples.

He added: “I’m not saying working classes are special, [back then] it was an open church. The great thing about the theatre was the fact that you went in there and everybody was equal. It didn’t matter where you came from, everybody was embraced. And now that’s become kind of exclusive, certain people from certain strata of class cannot get access to it. I think it’s horrible. I hate it, absolutely hate it.

“I thought we’d grown up a lot, but we’ve actually taken a backwards step in that way. And that’s why the arts have to be protected, that why it has to be subsidised, that’s why it has to be made available to all classes. An actor like me couldn’t begin now. I couldn’t have begun with a [single] mother, and no income, poverty like nobody’s business… couldn’t have happened.”

Explaining that his LAMDA education was fully subsidised by the state, he added: “We shouldn’t be holding boys and girls hostages to the fortune of their education. It’s obscene.”

His comments follow those of David Morrissey and Julie Walters, who in January both spoke out about the difficulty of access into the profession for people from working class backgrounds.

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