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James Corden complains British working-class performers face “elitism”

James Corden. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock

James Corden has warned that acting is becoming an “elitist sport” in the UK, claiming his performing career is not as highly valued as that of Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston.

Corden, who rose to fame after his role in The History Boys at the National Theatre, suggested allegations by critics that he “isn’t smart” or is “a bit of a lout” were because he was from a working-class background.

Looking back over his own career, which has included stage and screen roles in One Man, Two Guvnors, Gavin and Stacey and Into the Woods, the actor told GQ magazine [1]: “I mean, that’s quite a lot of good stuff.”

He then suggested his History Boys co-star Douglas Booth does not have to endure the same level of criticism because of his middle-class background.

“Douglas Booth has got a great career, he’s a brilliant actor, but he’s never going to encounter the sort of shit I’ve had. Nor will Tom Hiddleston. Nor Eddie Redmayne. Nor Benedict Cumberbatch,” he said.

He continued: “I fear acting is becoming an elitist sport and I worry about where that lands us culturally. I really do.”

The actor also compared his positive reception in the US – where he now hosts The Late, Late Show – to that back home in the UK, where he claimed there were “only expectations of failure”.

“Listen, if we’d made this show for ITV to air at eight o’clock on Saturday night people would have destroyed it,” he said.

His comments make Corden the latest actor to speak out against a perceived industry bias towards actors from more privileged backgrounds [2].

Last year, Christopher Eccleston claimed that to be successful in London theatre “you need to be white, you need to be male, and you need to be middle-class”, while Hiddleston himself claimed drama school fees are too expensive and risk alienating the less advantaged.