James Corden has said that working class people are ‘not bred for success’ and face ‘capped opportunities’ within the entertainment industry.
The comedian, 44, who recently stepped down as host on CBS’s The Late Late Show, landed his first stage show role in Martin Guerre in 1996 aged 17, before going on to star in the 1997 film, Twenty Four Seven, which he admits was as ‘life changing.’
The son of Royal Air Force musician Malcom and social worker Margaret, James grew up in Buckinghamshire, where he attended Holmer Green Senior School.
Starring on This Cultural Life on Radio 4, James reflected on his own successes after being told that such things were ‘not possible.’
Speaking to presenter John Wilson, he said: ‘When I think back to the time of making that film (Twenty Four Seven), I just think it was a life changing experience for me.’
James then added that director Shane Meadows taught him that ‘no one is going to invite you to the table.’
‘I think particularly if you’re from a working class environment. You’re not bred for success. The talent is everywhere, and opportunity isn’t. It just isn’t,’ he admitted.
James continued: ‘You’re capped in a way. I didn’t realise until I met my wife that she did I think thirteen GCSEs and I did six. And the most you could do at my school was seven. You’re kind of capped. You’re not really told that these things are possible.
‘I guess what I learned from him [Shane] is you’re going to have to bully your way through this. You’re going to have to get people to budge up to sit at the table if that’s what you want to do. It isn’t going to just be presented to you.’
At the age of four, James got the bug for entertaining after standing on a chair at his younger sister’s christening, pulling faces while people laughed.
He wrote in his autobiography – May I Have Your Attention, Please? – that it ‘felt amazing’ to have people looking at him, and from that day forward every day became a quest to be noticed.
James took part in after-school drama classes and attended lots of auditions without much luck until he was 17.
He began a B-Tech in performing arts but ditched it and landed a one-line role in the musical Martin Guerre aged 18 in 1996.
He turned down another small role in Les Miserables to focus on building up his screen career and landed roles in Shane Meadows’s Twenty Four Seven, Hollyoaks, Mike Leigh’s All or Nothing and ITV’s Fat Friends – where he met Ruth James, his Gavin and Stacey co-writer and star.
His big break came when he won the role of Timms in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, while proved a big hit at the National theatre, then went on to Broadway before being made into a film.
Last year, James turned down a ‘name your price’ multi-year deal from television bosses to stay in the US, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The surprise announcement that he will quit America next year – despite an estimated £40 million offer to remain – shocked Hollywood.
Speaking of his decision to step down from The Late Late Show, he added: ‘I think it’s a greater risk to stay. There’s an amazing clip, in which David Bowie talks about never playing to the gallery.
‘On the day of the announcement that I was going to walk away, it was still made very clear to me that there was a job here for the next five years and I’m not gonna lie, financially, it’s good.
‘I would watch that clip. I must have watched it fifty times that week, where he just says, “If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area.
‘”Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.'”
James will step down as the host of The Late Late Show at the end of next season amid plans to spend more time back home in the UK, DailyMail.com confirmed.
The presenter made the decision to quit at the end of season eight despite the best efforts of CBS executives who exclusively told DailyMail.com that they ‘desperately tried to keep him for longer.’
The star and his wife of 10 years Jules are mulling over a return to the UK with their three children Max, 11, Carey, seven, and Charlotte, four, but they are still trying to ‘figure out’ what’s next for the family.
An insider told DailyMail.com that spending more time in the UK when the show ends is ‘definitely on the horizon’.
This Cultural Life, 19:15 Saturday 24 September on Radio 4 and on BBC Sounds.