Glenda Jackson has said “boredom” is what drew her to acting after she grew up learning that “if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat”.
The 86-year-old former politician has won the Oscar for best actress twice, although opted not to attend the ceremony on either occasion.
Speaking to The Times Magazine, Jackson said she only started acting after she failed her school certificate, leaving her with no option but to start working at the age of 16.
“Listen, I come from a family where if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. That was the class structure,” she said of her childhood on the Wirral.
After joining a friend at the YMCA amateur dramatics society while she was working at her local Boots store, Jackson said: “Somebody said, ‘you should do this professionally’.
“I wrote to the only drama school I’d ever heard of, which was Rada. I did the auditions. They said, ‘If we had the money, we’d give you a scholarship. But we haven’t’, and the manager of Boots wrote to Cheshire County Council, which gave me a grant and I went to Rada.”
Of her time at acting school, Jackson added: “I was there to learn, to work.”
Despite her successful career – she has two Emmy Awards and a Tony as well as her Academy Awards for Women In Love in 1970 and A Touch Of Class in 1973 – Jackson revealed she has never had any interest in the social and glamorous aspects of the industry, saying: “That’s not what it’s about. Not for me.”
While explaining her decision to not collect either of her Oscars – with the excuse that she was filming elsewhere – Jackson said: “It always sounds so ungrateful, and I’m not, but once you’ve got it, what do you do with it?”
The veteran actor, who is soon to start shooting a film with Michael Caine, also revealed that she would “probably” turn down a damehood if she were to be offered one, because “what does it actually mean?”
In the midst of her showbiz career Jackson took a hiatus from acting to focus on politics.
In 1992 she was elected as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate and served as a junior transport minister from 1997 to 1999 during Sir Tony Blair’s government.
Jackson stood down as an MP at the 2015 general election and returned to acting.
She won a Bafta for best actress in 2019 for her role in Elizabeth Is Missing, which followed the story of a woman suffering from dementia.