‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Actress Joanna Lumley: ‘Lowly Paid, Never Complaining’ Actors Are Suffering, Need Financial Support

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07: Joanna Lumley during a BUILD panel discussion on February 7, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)
Joe Maher/Getty

British actress Joanna Lumley said Thursday people who work in the arts are “brave” and “not moaners… because they’re used to knock-backs all the time,”  but added 2020 has “pushed people into the most dreadful situations” as she pleaded for financial support for show business people in desperate need.

Lumley, who starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’  when she played the English aunt of his wife, was speaking to the BBC about her part in a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ – to raise awareness about the Actors’ Benevolent Fund (ABF), which supports those in the arts.

The video also features the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Tom Hardy, Ncuti Gatwa, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and more.

While urging those who enjoyed the arts to donate to the fund, Lumley set out her case for financial support:

It is not widely known, but apart from those people who are very highly paid in our business, acting – and the support things – is pretty much the lowest paid jobs you can get anywhere.

People do it because they adore it and they always wanted to do it and they have hopes of doing better and they manage to live off damn all… but once you’ve knocked that out, and because most of them are freelancers, and there is no furlough system, there is literally no support at all and they are doing anything they possibly can.

The 74-year-old described those who work in the arts as “brave people” who are “not moaners… because they’re used to knock-backs all the time”, but added that this year has “pushed people into the most dreadful situations.”

She also praised the Prince of Wales for his work helping out-of-work theater people in a later ITV interview.

“He has always supported actors and the performing arts and music and culture. He has always been a great patron,” she said.

“And for him, off his own back, to suddenly think of how he could best help the acting profession and all the backstage and everything that goes on, which has just hit a brick wall and been practically vanquished in this terrible year.”

The ABF supports actors, actresses and stage managers who are unable to work due to illness, injury or old age and those experiencing financial hardship.

Before the pandemic, the ABF mainly supported those of retirement age but during 2020 they have been largely helping those aged 18-47, Lumley noted.

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