Wilkinson: I'm not a hard worker

This Is Lancashire: Tom Wilkinson stars alongside Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle Tom Wilkinson stars alongside Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle

Tom Wilkinson has said he is not a hard worker - and that's why he loves acting.

The 66-year-old Best Exotic Marigold Hotel star's latest film Belle is a period drama based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by young rising star Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Belle was the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of an 18th century Royal Navy admiral who was raised as an aristocrat at Kenwood by her great-uncle Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of England, played by Tom.

The Full Monty star said: "One of the things I don't have in common with Lord Mansfield is a capacity for hard work.

"Acting, despite what people want to tell you about it, is a pretty easy number. It's not exactly pushing the plough.

"But it was wonderful becoming an actor and having this very different sort of background and different sort of culture. And then getting into theatre - it wasn't so much the acting, but the theatre which I just fell in love with - it was like a religious conversion. Suddenly I was single-minded."

"I feel sorry for kids these days, it's hard for them," he added

"My own kids are quite young, my youngest one is just finishing university and she hasn't a clue what she's going to do. When I was a graduate you got a job, more or less, in the sort of field you wanted to go into. You might change later on because you didn't like it.

"But now, you have Oxford guys stacking shelves and you think, 'Oh, that's not right'. These kids have got to have work."

The actor, who has two grown-up daughters with the actress Diana Hardcastle, credits a teacher at grammar school in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, with encouraging his love of drama. After studying at the University of Kent - he was the first of his family to go to university - and Rada, he began to land theatre and TV roles.

For many, Tom is best known for his turn in the 1997 Brit comedy hit The Full Monty, about six men in Sheffield who form a striptease act. And he feels baring all in the film's final scene gave him a sense of fearlessness.

He said: "I did feel like, 'Wow, that wasn't so scary. I'll do anything now'."

But he wouldn't want to do it again if there was ever a sequel planned.

"What, taking my clothes off? I don't think so, this time!" he said.

:: Belle is in cinemas now.

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