Ralph Fiennes on the UK class system: ‘It’s this country’s f–ing ghastly Achilles’ heel’

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I think I’ve always assumed that Ralph Fiennes is “posh” in British terms, but I guess he would consider his childhood to be more artsy/literary/intellectual than “posh” per se (although he is related to the Prince of Wales, so there). I get the feeling that he grew up in a comfortably upper-middle-class family with enough “old money” to go around, and he attended some of the finer independent and private schools in Ireland and the UK (only in Britain, they call private schools “public schools”). Still, don’t even talk to Ralph about Britain’s class system. Like those other posh boys Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph wants no part in the British class system, nor does he want to discuss the recent rash of Hiddlestons, Redmaynes and Cumberbatches who are becoming England’s biggest acting exports. In an interview with The Telegraph (to promote The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ralph went OFF on the class system and actors:

Just as Fiennes does not want to give anything away about his private life – there was a gleefulness in press coverage of his divorce from fellow actor Alex Kingston, and of the age difference between him and his former girlfriend, Francesca Annis, that probably still rankles – so he resists attempts to fix him in place as an actor.

Only once, though, does he get truly, incandescently angry. I want to know what he thinks about the fact that so many successful British actors of the moment are ex-public schoolboys and girls, a debate that has opened up again after Dame Helen Mirren claimed last month that aspiring actors needed rich parents to fund them through drama school.

“This is so bollocky,” he says, vehemently, “and all it is, is f—— England’s obsession with class, and it’s so depressing. And it’s a media construct to run stupid articles about class this, posh actors that. It’s so retarded to me, the discussion. It’s not true. There are parts for everyone. It happens to be a couple of actors who are hitting the limelight at the moment who happen to have public school educations. It’s depressing, it’s this country’s f—— ghastly Achilles’ heel, its obsession with class. Good actors get work. Doesn’t matter what their background. It’s even a question I’m reluctant to go there on.” He takes a breath, and before I have a chance to respond, he curtly closes the subject. “I’ve answered the question, Horatia.”

[From The Telegraph]

Well, he has a point, I guess. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender didn’t grow up in posh households and they get plenty of work – just as much work as Hiddleston, Redmayne and Cumberbatch. And Ralph is right about Britain being class-obsessed. It’s wouldn’t be that big of a deal except it sometimes feels like British people aren’t allowed to be upwardly mobile. Like, if you’re born “working class,” you will be working class until you breathe your last breath, regardless of what you accomplish in your life. As for Ralph’s choice in words – I love “bollocky”. I want Ralph to cuss me out. And I think he’s using the r-word as in “backwards”. As in, he can’t believe that he’s having this discussion in 2014.

In the Telegraph interview, Ralph talks about other stuff too, it’s a pretty good piece. He says he wants to “reach for a gun” whenever people talk about making characters “sympathetic.” He says he’s not interested in doing a TV series because “I don’t have the patience for it” – nor does he have the patience to watch TV shows. And he says that at one point, he was considered to play James Bond… oh, he says this was before they cast Pierce Brosnan, so this would have been in the early to mid-90s. He says he would have made a terrible Bond but that he’s “happier” playing the new M now. That’s sort of a spoiler, I guess, if you haven’t seen Skyfall. But Skyfall has been out for a while, so whatever. Ralph is the new M.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

 

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166 Responses to “Ralph Fiennes on the UK class system: ‘It’s this country’s f–ing ghastly Achilles’ heel’”

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  1. Lilacflowers says:

    Looking forward to seeing Grand Hotel Budapest. And the next Bond, whenever that happens.

  2. Suze says:

    Well, I can see his point. That class system just will not go away – no doubt because there are folks who benefit from it.

    • mercy says:

      I think he was talking about it in relation to his profession. It sounds like he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about categorising actors by their backgrounds. Maybe being labelled as “posh” makes it more difficult to get certain kinds of roles. Or maybe he just hates labels. His family may be considered posh by most standards, or because they have prominent relatives, but they also experienced financial and other hardships while he was younger.

  3. AG-UK says:

    Yes but didn’t Chiwetel go to Dulwich College which is a public school on SE London. I get where he is coming from every article about anyone seems to mention cost of their house where they were educated as if that had anything to do really with the article itself or the subject matter. I am not English so it does seem odd to me the preoccupation with it all.

  4. Tatjana says:

    I’m not familiar with every actor’s backround, but are there any truly working class actors hitting it big right now? It seems like only the “posh” ones are complaining.

    I tkink Julie Walters talked about it-she said that talent isn’t the issue, but that there aren’t enough scholarships and such things for actors who are not rich.

  5. Mia4S says:

    This is always too messy to get into but one of his points I really like; Cumberbatch, Hiddleston, Redmeyre, posh or not get work because they are GOOD. I’ll take a million Harrow/Eaton actors over Hollywood nepotism and reality stars thanks.

  6. Mouse says:

    A British lady I work with left her country for that reason (among a few others)

  7. CCG says:

    Kaiser, if you’re born “working class,” you need not die working class. If you marry well or make enough money, you can easily move into the middle or even upper middle class via the right schools and/or personal connections. e.g. Carole Middleton nee Goldsmith.

    • Ellen says:

      But that’s the point – No matter how much money Carol has, no matter what house he buys or clothes she wears, her background will always follow her.

      That’s actually true in NYC to some extent too (new vs trust-fund money) but the UK takes it to an entirely different level.

      • mayamae says:

        I’ve always wondered if the disdain for the Middletons is classist. I’m American, and if a family was able to elevate themselves in such a way in such a short time, it would probably be greatly admired.

        I know that in the UK, public schools are what we call private schools. But public implies open to all, so I wonder how the term originated.

        I also find the focus on accent odd. Many celebrities and newscasters aim for the generic Midwestern accent here, but that’s never considered pretentious.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        Eton was the first school to use the term public. At that time education was a three pronged affair: 1. Publicly funded schools available to the poor. This was rare, poorly funded and executed. 2. private education from schools funded by the religion your family practiced. These were exclusive and expensive. 3. Home schooling with private governesses and tutors. This was ultra exclusive and, because of the expense, was usually enjoyed by the aristocracy/upper class. Eton and subsequent schools like it described themselves as public because technically they were open to all boys regardless of family religion or class. However, they made the tuition astronomically high and the admission requirements (official and unofficial) so stringent that only boys from the “best” families could attend. Publuc schools like Eton are considered charity schools. In the US that term is equivalent to non-profit.

      • bluhare says:

        mayamae, I’m pretty convinced much of the disdain for Carole at least started because of her working class roots (even though she married a man with a better pedigree), and was compounded by what appeared to be her obvious attempts to escape them.

    • Devon says:

      Ellen is right. No matter how much money you make, if you’re born in to a lower-midfle class family, you’ll always be considered lower-middle class. My husband was having this discussion the other day with his friend, he’s Scottish and we live in Scotland (from Canada originally) and he was surprised at how mobile North American society can be.

      • LadySlippers says:

        Sixer posted this a awhile back but the UK is actually a slightly more mobile socially than the US. It’s simply perception that people think the US is more mobile and we’re actually one of the LEAST socially mobile cultures on the planet.

        Perhaps Sixer will post the numbers again…

      • Sixer says:

        It was a good study coming out on the back of the recent PISA education survey – at which both the US and UK did badly, as usual. The number that stuck in my mind was mobility from bottom quintile to top quintile. UK scraped in just above the US (something like 7% and 8% of people make it from one to the next). But the Western countries that scored highly in PISA were also much more mobile (Finland was over 15%). That the US is much more socio-economically mobile than the UK is a myth – neither country is particularly mobile.

        Having said that, perception and national narratives count for a lot. And the two radically different myths (class-ridden inertia vs land of opportunity) of our two countries does make for very different societies – just not in terms of socio-economic mobility!

        I think we can say that high quality, public/state education is a huge causal factor in mobile societies – but it’s not the only factor.

        ARGH. I should be working!

      • LadySlippers says:

        @Sixer:
        I think the US pretends to be things it ain’t because we are more like ‘mummy’ than we care to admit. Not saying the UK & US are identical by any stretch but we squawk a lot about things that aren’t true in order to *appear* different. It also makes us feel good about ourselves if we can pretend that everything in the US is sunshine & unicorns.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Agree, LadySlippers
        The head of my husband’s firm married his secretary about 20 years ago. She’s a nice, down to earth lady and a friend, but certain people ALWAYS bring it up that he married “beneath” his station when her name comes up. Always.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        Agree with these unfortunate facts. I will say, however, that from what I have observed women bear the brunt of this criticism. I have countless times heard men referred to as hardworking, dedicated, “pulled himself up from his bootstraps” and an example of a strong, American work ethic when he succeeds. If he is from a disadvantaged background there is even more of a congratulatory tone. When it comes to females the same old tired descriptors are dragged out: she “came up too fast” or came from the “bottom”. Married up, was a social climber,or “forgot her place”
        Really makes me cringe.

      • mercy says:

        How often do we talk about celebrities dating or marrying “beneath” them because their partner isn’t ‘A list’? There are many smart, talented, hard working, kind, and decent people who don’t register on any list.

    • LAK says:

      Carole Middleton is working class no matter how much money she makes. Class isn’t a money thing. it’s a caste thing.

      Her children on the other hand can move up by being sent to the right schools to make social connections which elevates them, and the resulting offspring will be a in the higher class Carole’s kids married into.

      No one despises/mocks other classes unless the person in question has pretensions of another class. that puts people’s backs up. as an example, Uncle Gary [ carole's brother] wears his working class roots proudly and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. result, no one has issues with Uncle Gary beyond the questionable way he acquired his wealth. Carole, on the other hand, has pretensions of being a different, higher class and behaves accordingly. Uncle Gary has mentioned it. People mock her for it.

      By comparison, Mike’s parents, Sophie’s parents, Autumn’s parents are all middle/working class. no one cares.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        But why should Carole be judged for how she enjoys/displays wealth? Why should she be modest and unassuming about their success because it makes others uncomfortable? Why should their money “age” a little before it is acceptable? And why is Michael Middleton not roasted as much as his wife, other than the fact that he appears to be more mild mannered and low-key?
        If anything I would laugh at the Middletons because of those hilarious signet rings but tacky doesn’t warrant as much derision as Carole gets,imo.

      • LadySlippers says:

        @Snark:
        We thrash Donald Trump because of his ‘garish’ displays of wealth. It’s essentially the same thing. Old money doesn’t feel the need to flaunt their wealth like new money does.

      • Sixer says:

        But what LAK says is spot on.

        Also remember that posh is both an absolute AND a relative term. For example, poor old Puddletom cannot be anything other than posh (there’s no-one posher for him to be not posh to anyone) but everyone else can be posh to some and not posh to others. You can see how even the Brits themselves fail to agree on who is or isn’t posh on every single post here where it’s discussed.

      • LAK says:

        Dame: Michael Middleton stays very much in the background where ever they are, no matter what they are doing, but the judgement encompasses him.

        Carole is mentioned specifically because she is the more visible one of the couple due to not being more subtle about her behaviour eg the signet rings. Have you ever seen a picture of Michael Middleton holding his hand up to show his ring?

        Her own brother has remarked upon her behaviour and what is important to her which he says was learnt at the foot of their mother who earned herself the moniker ‘the duchess’ for her behaviour and attitude to her neighbours. carole’s own behaviour has been remarked upon by their neighbours and villagers and in the rare interviews the middletons have given. The difference between their behaviour is always the same.

        Carole is a very glaring example of someone being mocked for their class pretensions, BUT!….. we are equal opportunity mockers – see Jeffrey Archer, Prince Charles vs the Spencers [Charles married up when he married Diana].

      • LadySlippers says:

        Sixer, my comments actually fall inline with what LAK wrote here in the US. The Trumps (especially Donald and Ivanka) get ridiculed because he acts mightier than what he is. He wouldn’t get so much crap if he didn’t run around braying about his money and such. Other people have done just as well or better but aren’t ‘out there’ like he is don’t get mocked.

        In essence, Trump is basically seen as trailer park trash that happens to be a billionaire. He’s seen just as tacky as Carole.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        Lady and LAK
        I understand the symptoms but not the disease, if that makes any sense. Like, what would a Middleton have to do to not be mocked as new money where it didn’t overlap with personal decisions that make them happy? And as for the pretensions of Carole I think what some people call uppity pretensions are what others call building/strengthening their hopes and dreams. In most cases, I find old money too complacent/entitled to even dream big.
        As for Carole’s mother I have a problem forming an opinion about a deceased woman whose impressions are largely culled from neighbors lining up to give interviews. I will say that there is also biographical information out there that depicts Carole’s mother as incredibly hardworking, intelligent and fiercely devoted to giving her family a better life than she had. It is not hard to imagine neighbors uncomfortable with watching her improve her lot and not give a damn about what they thought. If enough neighbors say it over and over does it make it true?if those neighbors spoke ill of her because she looked down on them then she deserved to be scorned. But if they mocked her because she showed more grit, determination and ambition than they did and didn’t waste time gossiping over tea then the neighbors ar unfair and unkind.

      • LadySlippers says:

        Edit to my post above: Donald and Ivanna (Ivanka is their daughter).

        Snark, I have the same hesitations when reading about Carole today. Too many people like to throw others under the bus and those opinions are probably skewed to some extent.

        Why do they do it in the first place? Change and anyone ‘rocking the boat’ is scary and disruptive to a society. So it’s easier probably easier to mock people into complicity. Just a guess though.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        Lady
        I totally agree. And other than being tacky I can’t fully see where Carole is so despicable. Besides, all one has to do is observe the comments here about aristo/royal wedding guest attire to see the double standard. When Melissa Percy wed most of the high born ladies in attendance looked slovenly, matronly, befloraled and mussed. The York sisters usually look very budget and wear those cable TV reception Phillip Treacy monstrosities on their heads. Lots here said they looked like others of their class and were entitled/aristo and have nothing to prove to the common folk. But each time the Middletons wear something tragic (fairly often, lol) their wardrobe is evidence of their low-born ability to “get it right” And I am not talking about the often innapropriate style choices Kate makes for royal engagements, either. Those type of comments are justified because she is on the job. But it would take me all day long to point out the double standards.
        I’m glad you mentioned the Trumps. They are mocked for being over the top tacky but that is mostly a holdover from the conspicuous consumption, Bonfire of the Vanities 80s pushback. The Trumps didn’t consult a more contemporary model of snobbery so they are justifiably laughed at. But for the most part, Trump is overwhelmingly looked up to for his sharklike business acumen and determination to make it to the top. He is mocked now for his sketchy uber conservatism and his underwhelming wiglets than for his audacity to overcome his humble beginnings. And in America if he were relentlessly and conspicuously reminded of his roots many would cry foul. Sincere or not, Americans are far more comfortable with the heavy rhetoric of social equality than our cousins across the pond, imo.

      • LAK says:

        Dame: You keep talking about money and that’s not a factor in class nor what i’m talking about.

        Carole isn’t mocked because she has money. She’s mocked because she pretends to be a different class as visibly demonstrated by the signet rings. Signet rings are a very specific class signifier. Having a signet ring isn’t an indication of anyone’s bank balance.

        A family can be as poor as church mice and still be aristocrats or upper class, wearing signet rings etc. There are many such people in Britain.

        And the reverse is true ie someone can be extremely wealthy and still be working class. As an example, the Eccelstones are billionaires. New money, just like Carole. They don’t have upper class pretensions nor do they want to be.

        They are mocked for conspicuous consumption (£1M for a bath tub???!!!), but not for their class.

        Think of it as a system akin to the Indian caste system though not as rigid.

        BTW: no one begrudges Carole her wealth and the effort it took ti get there. It’s frequently brought up as a point in her favour even if people snark on extent of that wealth. She’s seen as a go getter and frequently praised as the driving force behind the family’s success.

        Being a social climber and a millionaire aren’t mutually exclusive.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        LAK
        So Carole is mocked for trying to belong to or appear to belong to a class which she does not belong. It is this glass ceiling concept I find so irksome. The boundaries between classes lack porosity. If that is the case then parents/educators/clergy etc should just be honest and tell children that they should work hard and strive to be the best they can possibly be – as long as they put on the brakes at the social/class barrier. And, if they behave and make the right moves then there money can fund a future for their children and grandchildren that pushes them a little further up the ladder. Yes, the Middleton signet rings are wonderfully gaudy but how many generations are required to go by before it is considered an old, respected family tradition? Cressida Bonas’ family is considered aristocratic but are they classy? I don’t know. Are they tacky? Flaky, maybe, I don’t know. But I did read that the family got on the right track centuries ago because one of the ancestors was a beloved nurse/nanny to the king. Would her neighbors have called her tacky or a social climber? Have things come full circle enough to allow classy Cressy to wear scrunchies and sequined sneakers? Not going too hard after little harmless Cressy, just struggling to understand snobbery.

      • LadySlippers says:

        To build off LAK.

        Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are also new money but don’t have the tacky pretentons of Donald (he too spent millions plating his whole NYC apartment in gold. It was awful). No one shades either of those two and both are deeply respected business men that are also billionaires. They get invited by universities and other respected business institutions to speak whereas Donald isn’t and instead flaunts his wares on TV — something Bill and Warren do not do (unless a presentation is being filmed).

        Warren and Bill are comfortable with who they are as people. Especially Warren. He still lives in Omaha — in a ‘normal’ house and wears old suits — often with tennis shoes on his feet. He isn’t pretending to be anything other than who he is.

        That’s in contrast to Carole and Donald. They sent their kids to all the ‘right schools’ and did all the ‘right things’ so the kids can be accepted by old money. But both also were a tad too noisy on their climb up the social ladder. Climb away but don’t make a spectacle of yourself while doing it.

        That’s the difference that I think LAK is trying to illustrate. Sucess is fine and worth cheering about. But do it while still being comfortable about who you are and try to be mindful of your whereabouts and history. (There’s a children’s book about that and the title escapes me).

      • Anon says:

        I think it is the “wannabe” side of her that is rubbing people off the wrong way. Wanting to better oneself is fine. Clinging to the fact that your daughter is dating the future king and enabling her laziness, waitiness, so she can be at his beck and call like an escort is not. At one point it is rumoured that Carole’s phone wallpaper was William.

        I agree with the other examples here. Trump is gaudy, Gates and Buffet are not. So it is not just getting rich, but being desperate.

      • Dame Snarkweek says:

        Ladies
        Completely and clearly see and understand your points. But it seems to me that many people hate Carole for not humbly and visibly staying in her “place” but when questioned about it they simply illustrate ways in which she is gaudy/tacky. There are members of the upper crust who are terribly tacky/crude but there old money status serves as an impenetrable layer of defense. Being flamboyant or gaudy is not Carole’s crime, despite the spin. She committed the ultimate sin of not aping the upper class world she fringes/aspires to. She grins when she should show patrician coolness, she chomps gum in around the royals when she should be wondrously and humbly dignified. She spoils William when she should be genuflecting and feigning disaffectation. She proudly wraps her life around Kate and George when she should keep a low profile because, of course, the Windsor way is jolly good enough. To me, Carole is a strong, family oriented straight shooter and I get a kick out of it. As for little George, the royals have had centuries to screw up their heirs – give granny Middleton a try, lol. As for William being Carole’s wallpaper on her cell, idk. Could be true but the defense-minded chatter on blogs at the time said that Will’s picture was simply his caller ID pic and only popped up onscreen when he was actually calling, as did other individuas’ pics did when they callled. But who knows…or cares?

      • LAK says:

        Dame, forgot to add that we mocked Guy Ritchie for pretending to be working class when he is posh so it goes both ways.

        I don’t think anyone compares carole’s behaviour to that of BRF. Most people think they are strange even those who are staunch monarchists.

        BTW: that william wallpaper wasn’t a rumour. She was very proud and showed it off.

    • qwerty says:

      I agree with bluhare. Plus it’s often said that William married a “commoner”.

  8. Felice says:

    Why is Alice Eve never mentioned as ‘posh’? She seems posh. She went to Oxford.

    But on another note, can a Brit explain why the class system is a big deal?

    • Faith says:

      Its a big deal because its been that way for centuries its not such a big deal as it was 50 years ago or even 30 years ago. But there still is fair bit of class issues in certain industeries also where you come from can be an issue if you have a certain accent you can be judged very easily. Being from the north especially from Liverpool you are judged. I think the problem stems from if you have money more doors are open to you like better education, more connections ect. So its harder for working class people to make your mark. Also the stereotype of each class if your working class your seen as chavy.

  9. He said in Inside the Actor’s Studio that his favorite curse word, on a bad day, was c-nt. Lipton said that only three people have ever said that was their favorite, including Ralph–and the other two were women.

    I think Ralph is so skeevy in his relationships–but he is so pretty. I just like to look at him.

    Also, from my understanding was that they didn’t really have a lot of money going around–that they were a respected literary family, but his father didn’t make a whole lot of money.

    • Chrissy says:

      Really, c-nt? No wonder he flew mile high with Qantas ;)

      There must be some Australian in him. Haha

    • Seán says:

      The C-word is not such a hot button word in other countries like it is in the US. Granted, it’s origins are rooted in misogyny but so is the word “bitch” and that’s now widely used. The C-word is still considered bad language of course but doesn’t get the same horrified reaction that it seems to get in the US (depending of course on the context in which it’s used).

      Here in Ireland, the C-word is thrown around fairly casually between many adults. Like if someone is a bit of a rogue or a prankster, you might playfully call them the C-word. Basically these words are all very much dependent on the context in which they are used. You obviously have to be careful how you use your words but using the C-word as a general expletive is not such a huge deal outside the US.

    • mercy says:

      I’ve heard guys called that word, and call each other that word, more often than women. ;)

      I gave up following his love life after he and Francesca split. Loved them together, even though they hooked up in a skeevy way. But he and Alex married kind of young, and while he was losing his beloved mum to cancer. She wanted kids, and he didn’t. They weren’t meant to be.

      His father was a photographer and his mother was a writer. They had six kids and moved around a lot, living in Ireland for a time. His mum suffered bouts of depression while he was growing up and, despite the rich relations, they didn’t have a lot of money. Maybe that has shaped his views of the class system and his aversion to labels.

  10. Froop says:

    Funny how the actors who claim to hate the class system or are defensive about their public school education are always the ones who have benefited the most from these. Wearing top hats must be hard on the neck muscles or something.

  11. blue marie says:

    I think I might like him to cuss me out as well, can’t wait to see Grand Budapest Hotel.

  12. lauren says:

    Chiwetel’s mum and dad are doctor and pharmacist, so yeah, very posh.

    As for Brit actors who aren’t posh that are ‘big’ right now would beTom Hardy and Charlie Hunnam. Those are the only two that pop in mind.

    • Socalgal says:

      I thought Tom Hardy came from money? And Charlie Hunnam is so so so yummy!

    • Applapoom says:

      Tom Hardy pretends to be rough but he isn’t. He went to a boarding school in Surrey (which he was expelled from). He did have issues, but he did have opportunities and he would never really have ended up on the street.

      Charlie Hunnam’s career could be better, but I don’t think he is a great actor (hot though!)

      Independent schools do help students foster their public speaking and theatre skills so it is not surprising some of the best actors come from these schools. It is not just the reputation, I do think if you are paying that amount of money you get more opportunities to try various extracurricular activities that could make one a good actor later on. So there is the double whammy of “oh wow s/he went to a posh school”, these actors can often back it up with skill.

      I am married to a brit and definitely what school you went to is one of the first things that kind of pops up in certain circles. Doesn’t bother myself as I am not a Brit, but it will certainly be an issue for our kids.

    • Kath says:

      What about Christopher Eccleston?

  13. Sixer says:

    Big job on so brief thoughts only.

    I think class is less of an obsession in everyday life than it used to be. But views of other nationalities take a long time to dissipate. I see how the topic of race consumes US discourse, for example. But I don’t call the US a race-obsessed society to the exclusion of all else. Countries are mostly full of people getting on with their lives while the media narratives about them are silly caricatures.

    I think people who have benefited from the public school system (including me because I have) should STFU about how annoying it is to be asked about it. At least own the advantages it has conferred, a la Dominic West.

    I think the whole thing is skewed by Hollywood’s love of the posh Brit. Why don’t you want our yobby actors? Eh? (Tongue partly in cheek, as per).

  14. Hiddles forever says:

    I can see his point, he is tired of being asked (@Kaiser, btw Ralph is also related to Sir Ranulph Fiennes). That doesn’t change the fact that Dame Mirren was quite right in her remark.
    I don’t see many English actors coming from a working class background at the moment, to be honest I don’t even think there are any!
    Scottish actors like Gerard Butler or McAvoy are excluded, of course, because Scotland’s education system is different.

    And yes, I found the English obsession about classes quite weird, someone who is working class is not supposed to go anywhere. There are still many “Goop-alike” women who I heard calling the lower classes as ‘plebs’ or ‘peasants’ (which I am one of course, because I was not born here, even worse, I probably get the “migrating peasant” one behind my back…..)

  15. Jackrabbit says:

    I find your observation about the British people not being allowed to be upwardly mobile very interesting – since moving to Europe from Canada I find that to hold true on most countries. There is definitely more focus on class and pedigree than in N. America where the focus seems to be more on “stuff” (big house, wide screen tv, designer jeans etc.). What’s interesting here (Europe) is that people seem more resigned to their “station in life” if you’ll pardon that expression and because most governments are more socialist in structure than capitalist (like in the States) people, by their own choice, are less driven to move up in life ex. Children of doctors become doctors and children of garbage collectors become garbage collectors……and before anyone rips my head off I’m not implying one job is more important than the other they do, unfortunately, define one’s economic standing. I just find that the drive to better one’s self isn’t as strong in Europe and they often assume the government will take care of them – where in N. America you’re constantly being told you can be whatever you want no matter where you come from with hard work and gumption but expect no hand-outs.

    • Tatjana says:

      Depending on where in Europe. Post-communist cointries don’t have a class issue as such. At least mine has’t.

      • Hiddles forever says:

        Exactly. Southern countries have classes though (usually defined by personal richness and income) but they are not as rigid as in UK, you can move upward if you have the right *ahem* associations….

      • Tatjana says:

        I would just like to apologise for my spelling – my new mobile is driving me insane.

      • Jackrabbit says:

        @Tatjana – Very true, I know I made pretty general statements but (again, these are just my personal observations) I agree those in/from former communist countries have a much different outlook and work ethic than in most Western European countries (I’m also excluding Scandinavian countries – even though they have monarchies and such they are much more liberal and progressive than the “rest” of Europe). For instance where I live (Vienna) “they” never stop complaining about people coming from the East – who are just trying to rebuild or better their lives – stealing jobs or working illegally, however, most of the jobs these hard working people take are jobs Austrians would feel they’re too good for.

      • Tatjana says:

        Private schools and private universities are looked down on, even laughed at here, and there is no “old money” because of communism.
        But, regarding immigrants doing jobs Austrians thinh are beneath them – in my experience, most of those immigrants wouldn’t do the same jobs in their own country because people know them there.

      • Ronia says:

        I’ll have to disagree. Don’t know which country you are refering to but I come from aristo background and in the country where I happened to be born (which was socialist at the time) and where I lived very little but still visit often, it does matter. The difference is that there are no such schools but there are still “good” schools where then and now it’s not easy to get enrolled and everyone knows it. Just like everyone knows that graduating from one of those schools opens many doors. I have many friends who graduated from such schools and the connections made so many things easier for them. On top of that, although not as well known as British aristocracy, post-socialist and communist countries in Europe have old and well established aristocracy which, despite all the efforts of the socialist and communist governments, managed to survive. At first glance it may be non existent but who you know and what your circle is does matter if one is born into it. I see no difference in Canada, though. I’ve also lived in France and see no difference. In theory class doesn’t exist but in reality who you know is equally big of a deal in both countries. The only difference I see is in the ability to be classy and this is something not to be learned. I have to agree that new money screams “look at me, look at my clothes, my six closets, my dressroom and my membership in the yacht club!”. In my family this would be considered extremely bad taste.

      • Tatjana says:

        It depends on the country then. I’ve never heard of anyone having an aristocratic background here.
        And of course there are schools that are considered better, but they are state schools and entry depends.on grades. As for universities, it depends more what you study then where. Medicine and engeneering, for an example, are respected much more than philosophy. State universities, of course. Private universities are for stupid people with money.

      • qwerty says:

        @Tatjana
        “Private schools and private universities are looked down on, even laughed at here, and there is no “old money” because of communism.
        But, regarding immigrants doing jobs Austrians thinh are beneath them – in my experience, most of those immigrants wouldn’t do the same jobs in their own country because people know them there. ”

        I agree with everything.

        @Ronia who are these aristocrats in post-communist countries? I’m pretty sure me & Tatjana don’t come from the same country but I’d have to agree with her (again), can’t think of anyone with aristocratic roots around here except for literally 2 or 3 people who are promoted in the media cause they have the same surname as our past kings. There’s lots of people who became millio/billionaires after the fall of communism but most of it was due to importing any foreign-made shit they could get their hands on and selling it here, everything sold cause people had nothing.

    • Soporificat says:

      He’s an idiot. People need to talk about class as a problem or it will always remain a problem. Of course, HE doesn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he should grow up and think about someone other than himself. OK, that came out harshly, but I’m sick of the whole “let’s not talk about the problem because if we don’t talk about it then there won’t be a problem, plus talking about it is inconvenient to me.” You see this type of attitude whenever people try to bring up serious discrimination issues that really do hurt people. Again, it’s not the talking about it that is the problem. It’s the problem that is the problem. Sheesh.

      Also, he just does come across as an idiot, who tries to hide the fact he is an air head by being rude and grumpy. Sorry, dude, didn’t work!

  16. Mark says:

    If most of these actors were working class you wouldn’t know who they were, it’s stupid when deny that their class as got them as far as they’ve gotten. I’m not denying they’re talented but in England there are plenty of actors and actress who are great but they don’t get the hollywood push or have to work real hard to get a push because of their background e.g. Stephen Graham.

    James Mcavoy, Jack O connell and Idris Elba are the only few actors who are working class who’ve gotten a push.

    • Tracey Gosling says:

      I think you also need to include Fassy and Gerard Butler in this category too. Tom Hardy has a public school education. I agree with Algernon below, there’s confusion when mentioning the word ‘posh’. I wouldn’t say that someone’s whose parents are doctors et al is posh (e.g. Chiwetel – although he did go to private school), they’re middle class. There are also different levels of private school/public school education, with Eton & Harrow obviously being at the top of the tree. Likewise there are differing levels of state school education, as some schools are better than others and recognised for it.

    • Jayna says:

      Liam Neeson was from a working class family. He was a boxer in high school and had some recognition for it. He began studying to be a teacher and knew he would be bad. He was a forklift driver.

    • WendyNerd says:

      What about Ben Whishaw? He went to RADA, but he paid for it by doing commercial work—– check youtube and you can find the clips—- and his parents were an IT worker and a cosmetics saleswoman. Of course, he’s not on the level career/public profile-wise that Hiddleston, Fassbender or Cumberbatch are, but he still gets consistent work and it’s mostly due to him being more stage-oriented.

  17. Mel M says:

    Yeah I really hope he was using the r-word as in backwards although no one ever uses it in that way anymore. It has a very negative, demeaning connotation to it and I can easily see him using it as such since you can swap it out with the word “stupid” and it still makes sense and gets his point across.

  18. Algernon says:

    I’m getting confused about how we’re using the “posh” around here. Are we using it as a synonym for “rich”, or are we conferring social status with it, too? I thought “posh” referred to people who had not only money but actual society connections. For instance, Robert Pattinson is from a well-to-do family, but I wouldn’t call him posh. But Tom Hiddleston, who is listed in Debrett’s, is posh. Right? Or are we just talking about rich vs. not rich?

  19. Nona says:

    Huh. This heart of this topic puzzles me. Why in the heck would you need to be posh or rich or highly educated to be an actor? I honestly don’t understand. In Britain, is it hard to get work in film or theater without a degree from drama school? I’m thinking of here in North America, where you can drop out of high school or college, pack up your clothes, live in your car, and if you manage to get the right audition, you’re in. It’s not that easy, of course, but lord help us if it depended on a good education—half of Hollywood would be wiped out.

    • Baskingshark says:

      Way complicated to explain, but essentially the film/TV business in the UK is cornered by those who come from that sort of background and for the most part they take care of their own.

      Also, for the record ALL the actors mentioned by everyone so far both in the article and comments qualify as “posh”. The only successful one I know of who genuinely is not is Sam Claflin.

      Also Fiennes needs to STFU as he’s made a very nice career out of being posh and is just pissed off that people are drawing attention to the fact (which is likely what annoys the rest of them too). And he should be very aware that the better looking acting member of his family would likely have eclipsed him if that relative wasn’t such an a$$hole that nobody wanted to work with him.

      • CCG says:

        Is the relative you’re talking about Ralph’s brother Joseph? How is he an a$$*@#^?

      • Sixer says:

        Also remember that the stage school route is the one followed by most British actors from the working class, not uni then RADA. They are funnelled to soaps and procedurals. They’re very visible to we Brits but not at all visible to you Americans. How many of the cast of EastEnders or Coronation Street do you know? Or of Casualty or Holby City? Or whatever the teen one is. Um… Hollyoaks.

        When people say that the rich poshies are shutting out the poor working class out of acting, they don’t mean ALL acting. They just mean the good stuff.

        ETA: that’s a general “you” not any commenter in particular.

      • Baskingshark says:

        @CCG It might or might not be. And if it was then I might or might not have been in casting sessions with people who might or might not have been producers and directors who refused to even consider the person who might or might not be Joe Fiennes for roles because he might or might not be so deeply unpleasant to be around and work with.

        @Sixer I am (part) British and have been involved in the entertainment industry in both the US and UK. You’re correct, of course, that EastEnders and Coronation Street do offer work to working class actors, however, the “escape rate” on these shows is extremely low; unlike, say, Australian soaps which have spawned numerous actors who went on to become international stars, if you’re a British soap actor you’re very likely to be stuck there forever and in many cases once actors leave UK soaps, they find themselves unable to make a living out of acting and having to turn to other jobs to make ends meet. So yes, it’s really all about “the good stuff” being off-limits, but while in the US you can still make a living out of guest shots, B-movies etc, in the UK it’s a lot more difficult to do that, and in many cases, it isn’t lack of talent which keeps people out of higher-quality projects, it’s the system. (And, of course, the relative paucity of quality projects.)

      • Sixer says:

        Yes, exactly. But that isn’t how many on here are interpreting the actual issue, you know? There’s a dual route and a dual set of opportunities and they are classist.

      • Baskingshark says:

        Totally agree, Sixer – there are 2 different routes and they are massively classist.

        I didn’t notice that line where Fiennes described Helen Mirren’s comments as “bollocks” and it makes me hate him even more. I may have to give up on Bond now he’s M. Mirren is a whole other story, but she’s dead right in this case.

        I remember when I was in school in the US and we went to a Jay Leno taping where Josh Hartnett (who still had a career at that point) was on. He talked about how he came to LA, got off the bus, got headshots, got an agent and got started. That would NEVER happen for anyone in England. The best he could have hoped for would have been Hollyoaks!

      • Hiddles forever says:

        @Baskingshark

        Hollyoaks? Maybe not even that one :D

      • manta says:

        Mark Strong is the son of two immigrants who wouldn’t be qualified as posh, Gemma Arterton’s parents are both working class. On the top of my head come the names of Stephen Graham,Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Ray Winstone,Michael Sheen all strong actors, steadily employed in indie and high profile pictures.
        They just don’t fit that stereotypical allure that the US audiences (and their media) seem to cherish in an English actor.
        I’ve just recently watched Ill Manors and found that people like Ben Drew, Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein really bring something to the table. Of course, they’ll probably never be media darlings like the other names mentioned before, but that won’t stop me and many others to check their work.
        I almost added Liam Cunningham who worked as an electrician before acting but remembered just in time that he’s Irish.

      • Sixer says:

        We’ve all forgotten Eddie Marsan (who I love)!

        ETA: Robbie Carlyle. Gary Oldman. Kathy Burke.

      • bluhare says:

        Nice to see your name again, baskingshark.

    • LadySlippers says:

      @Nona: Since I’m not British I feel odd commenting. However, I’ll dig up some articles I’ve read that explain and answer the question you’ve asked.

      From what I’ve read — the UK used to subsidise the poorer kids to go to drama school but no longer do. So that means the poorer kids no longer have the same access to schools as they once did.

      One article that’s been mentioned:

      http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jan/26/working-class-hero-posh-britain-public-school

    • First of all, in England your accent reveals your class as soon as you open your mouth. This can only be changed by sending your children to an expensive (£12,000.00 per year for a day school) and academically demanding public (private) school so they can learn how to speak the Queen’s English and gain that very intimidating upper class confidence (see Colin Firth as Mr Darcy).
      In England, leading men tend to be like Hugh Grant – very posh.
      The entire of the BBC and, for instance, all of Monty Python met at Oxford/Cambridge University, which only the (academically) top 1% of the population can get into.
      All of these would help enormously to get an English actor to the top.
      Hope that helps.
      Marianne

  20. MissNostalgia says:

    Fiennes has built a career on playing “upper-crusty” characters, so he can stop with the outrage. Can you imagine him playing a cop from the Bronx?? No. If he feels this strongly about it, he should join the secession movement, like the one happening in Scotland. These cushy actors are always making random statements about society like they care about the rest of us. Give me a break already!

  21. Miss Jupitero says:

    Walters and Mirren are right. It is not about talent, but opportunity. Going to RADA costs as much as buying a new Mercedes each year and driving it off a cliff. It opens doors, don’t kid yourself, but only actors with rich parents and trust funds can absorb that. Then you have to be able to support yourself through the audition process and put in time for those crucial but low paying roles. Don’t tell me that is not easier if you have independent money and connections. This is reality. People who benefit most from privilege would like it to be invisible though.

    • Granger says:

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Fiennes is delusional when he makes that blanket statement that “Good actors get work.” Sure, there are good actors who don’t come from money and who don’t know anyone who become very successful; but for every one of them there are probably 100 other good actors who will never get anywhere because they don’t have that “in” that people who have familial connections or financial backing have.

      • Miss Jupitero says:

        Also let’s be clear on nepotism: Tom Hiddleston got into Wallender and Thor through a friendship with Branagh that went back to his undergraduate years. Someone without that connection, who had to work and earn money during college, is *not* going to get the same in. Who you know is everything. The Eton connection alone opens doors. Let’s not kid ourselves.

        I once worked in college admissions and became well familiar with “accomplishments” that were mostly about have time and money to throw around. If you don’t have that, you are at an extreme disadvantage.

      • mercy says:

        That’s very true, and more should be done to give similar advantages to more people. I’m sure that was the context of Helen Mirren’s comments on the matter. But I can see his points as well, especially considering the wording of the question. It’s not like these “posh” actors sat back and let mummy and daddy’s wealth and connections make a career for them. They seized on the opportunities to educate themselves and become good at their profession.

      • 'p'enny says:

        Nepotism is a scourge of all classes and business.

        People will always give jobs to who they know or heard from a trusted source. This country, UK is run on a lot family businesses. Jobs go to family members, friends and then they may look to others. Whether its acting or not, a higher percentage of jobs are never advertised.

        i hate this so much.

        At least Tom acknowledges Kenneth’s support for giving him is big break.

      • Miss Jupitero says:

        The point being, Mercy, you have to have the opportunity before you can grab it and work hard. When the “opportunity” has a 40k pound a year price tag with no scholarship possibilities, it’s pretty clear who is going to be able to grab it and run with and who absolutely cannot.

      • mercy says:

        I do realise that. I said more should be done to make similar advantages available to more people. But that has no bearing on Hiddleston’s talent, education, work ethic, etc. He’s not the equvalent of a trust funder who sat around drinking latte’s all day and still got a well paying job from one of his Dad’s wealthy friend’s.

      • LadySlippers says:

        I agree with Miss J and money helps out a lot — sometimes in places you don’t think about.

        One example, since my divorce we (my kids and I have only child support from my ex and other than that — he is NOT involved) have had to pinch pennies so my kids simply can’t afford all the extracurricular activities their friends participate in. And what do colleges look for and reward? Those same activities we can’t afford to do. It’s kinda not fair.

        Another example but for earlier kids, Head Start was a way to help poor kids get a boost in school against their more affluent classmates. What happened? Rich people started sending their kids to pre-school as well which meant the rich were ahead again over their poorer counterparts.

        Money allows people to have resources, in every sector of life, that cannot be aquired in almost any other way. It really sucks. A lot.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        Hiddleston started working while still at Cambridge and he paid his own way through RADA from his own earnings, not his parents’ money or a trust fund, so maybe not the best example here.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        As for connections, that happens everywhere. England is a small country so it is easier to see the connections but it happens here in the United States too. The Emerson College mafia does a rather nice job of keeping its alums working in all areas of the entertainment industry such as production, writing, and acting and those alums also pull in other New Englanders into jobs.

      • Miss Jupitero says:

        LF, Hiddles’s money came primarily from a family trust fund, which he came into after graduating. He used it for RADA and later to buy a house. It was his money, of course.

        He was not making enough money working as an actor to pay 40k a year for RADA and living expenses, car expenses, traveling around Europe expenses. Don’t kid yourself. Resources make the difference. Connections make a difference. He was born with a nice puke of advantages and blank checks.

        All this is fine, but it would be nice if he could own it and unpack that suitcase of privilege instead if pretending that it isn’t real.

      • jammypants says:

        Wait where is this 40k a year coming from? I googled and no where could I find that? The most I found ranged from 9-16k a year:

        http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2011/07/drama-schools-announce-they-will-charge-maximum-9k-tuition-fees/

        Also, I honestly don’t get why people get so caught up and angry on how the guy gets or spends his money. It’s not like he’s robbing from people. It’s so weird. That’s his business. I surely would be put off if someone judged me solely on my money or my family’s money, whether I own up to it or not. It’s not like he’s putting people down. In fact I’ve seen the guy constantly acknowledged he’s had help, is privileged, and is lucky.

    • Hiddles forever says:

      Miss Jupitero

      +1,000,000!!!!!

  22. Em says:

    Kaiser, just to correct you. Tom hardy is from a comfortably wealthy background. His parents sent him to several public schools he just tended to get in problems everywhere. Chiwetel is a former public school boy, he went to dulwich college a top public school in south london. His family were educated but not rich, he was gifted enough to get an academic scholarship. Here in England the educational system plays a part in upholding the class system, including the drama school system. A working class person would not be able to go to rada. There is I believe only one scholarship so that means 99.9% of the people who attend rada have to come from a background were they have the means to pay huge college fees.
    In general I think Helen mirrens perspective is different from fiennes, she is a working class lass and sees the world differently. I think fiennes shows his arrogance when he dismisses her argument as retarded.

  23. Leah says:

    Tom Hardy grew up wealthy. He likes to pretend he had it rough though. But he went to public school and his family has money.

  24. Tiffany says:

    I am not sure I would like for him to curse at me because I still get chills when I think of his performances in Schindler’s List and Red Dragon.

  25. lunchcoma says:

    I’m not terribly familiar with the British class system, but I’m going to be a little skeptical of complaints when they come from someone who seems to be at the top of it.

  26. Jayna says:

    The Grand Budapest Hotel is getting rave reviews form critics and audience goers who saw it on limited release. I can’t wait to see it this weekend when it opens nationwide. On Rotten Tomatoes, it’s getting a 90 from critics and 92 from the audience. Those are huge numbers for Rotten Tomatoes. It looks like Ralph Fiennes is fantastic in it.

  27. bluhare says:

    The most important thing here is figuring out what happened to Ralph’s looks. He used to be so hot.

    • Jayna says:

      He wasn’t just hot. He was beautiful.

      I have to give him credit, though. He was on WWHL with Andy Cohen a couple months ago, maybe more, and he asked his good friend, Susan Sarandon, to appear with him and keep him company. I had no idea they were good friends. He was so laid back and funny and would do silly stuff and I loved seeing that side of him, and he and Susan together were so cute interacting with each other. I wanted to go hang with them.

      And he looked a lot better than the photo above on WWHL, no beard and all that mess. He still didn’t look like he looked when he was younger, but he looked a lot better than that photo.

    • mercy says:

      He lost his hair and didn’t get “hairline restoration.” The high forehead was an asset with his former luscious locks. Without, just the opposite. He’s still beautiful, though. Piercing eyes, smooth skin, strong bone structure. Gorgeous.

    • lunchcoma says:

      Time happened to his looks. He’s 51, it doesn’t look like he’s had work done, and most of the roles associated with his hotness were 10 or 15 years ago. I think he looks pretty good for his age.

  28. Sara says:

    I don’t like the love of my life being called names! He has a right to be grouchy sometimes as we all do. The thing I got from the article was he was defending Cumberbatch and Hiddleston, that they have talent and roles were not purchased for them. There will always be barriers that have to be knocked down but I think he was saying if you want something and you have talent you will fight for it and station in life will not determine if you make it or not! By the way , I will listen to that beautiful voice cuss any day! ( swoon)

    • Emily C. says:

      No, that’s not what he was saying. He was saying that the only thing that matters is talent. Because he likes to imagine that’s the only thing that got him where he was. If you want to have a crush on him, go ahead, but that does not change the actual words that came out of his mouth.

    • mercy says:

      Yeah, because of the way the question was worded and the names mentioned, I felt like he was defending the actors. They shouldn’t be labelled and their work shouldn’t be denigrated because other talented, hard working people have been denied similiar opportunities. I know Fiennes has been involved with organisations who’s purpose was to expose more young people to theatre and give them more opportunities in the field.

  29. Violet says:

    Is he still with Lady Amanda Harlech? I hope so, because they made an interesting couple.

  30. Steph says:

    Who gave him the hair wedgie?

  31. Kikky says:

    I love that a he’s losing his hair and doesn’t give a crap about it and he’s not wearing a hair piece like, i.e. Sean Penn. That’s how you get older with dignity. Kudos to him.

  32. joe spider says:

    Being posh will only get you so far, and obviously takes the worries away when you are training or starting out. But if you are a crap actor you won’t keep getting the roles.