Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

February 11, 2014

Class back on rise in UK -- but elite different

(Continued)

Or do you?

Britain's leading actors appear to be drawn from a smaller pool compared to a generation or two ago.

In a list of actors with the highest cumulative box-office earnings on website Box Office Mojo, there are 10 Britons in the top 50. The older end of the list includes actors from working-class backgrounds such as Michael Caine, son of a fish-market porter, and 55-year-old Gary Oldman, son of a sailor and a London housewife. The 74-year-old Ian McKellen and 61-year-old Liam Neeson both attended state-funded schools.

As the list gets younger, it climbs the social scale: Ralph Fiennes, 51, grandson of a wealthy industrialist; Helena Bonham Carter, 47, whose great-grandfather was a British prime minister; and Orlando Bloom, 37, educated at private school. Of the three young stars of the Harry Potter trio, now in their 20s, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson attended private schools; Rupert Grint went to a state school.

"I look at almost all the up-and-coming names and they're from the posh schools," actress Julie Walters said recently. "Don't get me wrong ... they're wonderful. It's just a shame those working-class kids aren't coming through. When I started, 30 years ago, it was the complete opposite."

If actors are becoming posher, surely there's still plenty of room for working class heroes in popular music?

The best-selling British artists of all time, according to data from the Recording Industry Association of America, are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elton John and the Rolling Stones — often self-taught musicians, mostly from lower- or middle-class backgrounds who worked their way up from small, smoky clubs to the big time.

But that was several decades ago.

There's a growing perception — though hard proof is elusive — that the upper classes are gaining ground in the music business. For every working-class singer made good, such as Adele, there's a posh, privately educated Coldplay or Mumford & Sons. And there's also a new kind of class warfare between the "authentic" bands and manufactured TV talent-show products, such as world-conquering boy band One Direction, molded by pop Svengali Simon Cowell. These days in Britain, with the rise of talent-show acts and performing-arts training academies, the grassroots approach is no longer the main way to fame.

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