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Christopher Eccleston says he turned down ‘offensive’ role in ‘Billy Elliot’

The actor said he was "tired of seeing working-class parents portrayed as being vehemently against their kids going into the arts".

By Nick Reilly

Christopher Eccleston (Picture: Wikicommons)

Christopher Eccleston has revealed how he turned down a role in Billy Elliott, after deeming the film’s depiction of the working class to be “offensive”.

The Doctor Who star explained that he was offered the role of tough father Jackie Eliot in Stephen Daldry’s Oscar-nominated 2000 film, but turned it down because he found its depiction of the working class to be “offensive”.

The film tells the story of a working class boy in 1980s County Durham, who discovers a passion for ballet but is met with resistance from his toughened father.

In a new interview with The Independent, Eccleston said he was against the depiction of Billy’s father, because his own parents – a forklift driver and a cleaner – were very supportive of his own ambition to become an actor.

“[I’m] tired of seeing working-class parents portrayed as being vehemently against their kids going into the arts,” he said. “What was that fucking ballet film everyone went mad for?”

“I was offered a meeting to play the father,” Eccleston went on to recall. “But I said I’m not going to do that, it’s offensive. It was a middle-class view of the working-class experience, made for the American market. Fuck it!”

The actor has also previously voiced his anger at a lack of working class representation within the arts, explaining that a “boys club” of privately educated actors put him at a disadvantage.

He told Sky News: “If ever I go up against anybody who is from a middle class background, or has been public school educated – and particularly if they’ve been to Oxbridge – I’m at a disadvantage. “They have a superior education to me, and also it’s a ‘boy’s club’.

“I do have an advantage, because I’m white and I’m male,” he went on, “but it was a lot easier for me than it is for the equivalent [today]. I could not have gone to drama school today – my parents could not have afforded to pay for me to go to drama school now. People like me are not gonna come through anymore.

“There is no way that film and television in this country reflects the multicultural society we live in. If you are working class, [or] if you are non-white, you are at a severe disadvantage.”

Eccleston is currently lighting up the small screen with a key role in True Detective: Night Country, starring alongside the likes of Jodie Foster and Fiona Shaw.