Sir Ian McKellen has urged theatre bosses to provide a minimum wage to help struggling actors.

The Lord of the Rings star wants thespians at the lower end of the pay scale to receive more money for their work to keep them above the poverty line, and he urges stage producers to do more to support them financially.

MCKellen tells Britain's Radio Times magazine, "Most actors are not rich - they are very poor indeed. What keeps them going is that they just love the job.

"I know actors who have had to turn down good roles because they just don't pay enough. It's hard. The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theatres that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference."

MCKellen's plea follows the publication of a report which showed only one in 50 actors in the U.K. earns more than $34,000 (£20,000) a year.