Tom Hiddleston has urged drama schools to lower their tuition fees or risk alienating young people from underprivileged backgrounds.
He claimed that fees at RADA are now nearly 10 times more expensive than they were when he studied there in 2004.
However the actor – last seen on stage in Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse in 2013 – also claimed people were “unfairly prejudicial” against actors who were privately educated, such as Eddie Redmayne or Benedict Cumberbatch.
“There’s a justified anger about inequality of opportunity. People feel that spheres of influence, like politics and the arts, have become the preserve of a privileged few,” he told Esquire.
Theatre figures who have spoken out against the prolific careers of public school-educated stars include playwright Roy Williams, who said he was “steamed and pissed off” that they continue to dominate the industry.
But Hiddleston, who was educated at Eton, said: “I do think the debate can become unnecessarily prejudicial when individuals are singled out. I’ve known Eddie since 14 and I’ve never seen anyone work so hard.”
However, he then cited comments from Julie Walters and David Morrissey – both state-educated – about the insurmountable difficulty they would face if they entered the profession now.
He added that “the grants aren’t there” to support aspiring actors from working class backgrounds.
“When I went to college, RADA cost £3,300 for three years. Now it’s £30,000. That needs to change,” he said.
A new study last year condemned the arts as a “closed shop” to people from working-class backgrounds, suggesting that more than three quarters of those in the performing arts were middle class.
Another report released in March claimed a “class ceiling” in theatre stopped working-class actors breaking through – and meant they were paid less when they did.