Ben Kingsley

Ben Kingsley in You Kill Me

Ben Kingsley in “You Kill Me”

Sir Ben Kingsley was actually born Krishna Bhanji, his father of Indian descent and his mother of Russian Jewish origin. He was born and raised in England, studying stage acting at an early age. Kingsley’s mixed ethnic background would later provide legitimacy for the many diverse roles (Gandhi, for one), but Ben originally planned on becoming part of the British Invasion as a musician; yet, his devotion to acting began a highly regarded and respected career in which he can absorb any part given him.

The majority of Ben’s work was on British television, appearing in recurring roles in shows and many TV movies. It was Richard Attenborough, the esteemed British actor and director, who pulled Ben out of near obscurity to take on “Gandhi” in 1982. Totally immersing himself in the role, Ben delivered a tour-de-force performance and snagged the Oscar for Best Actor. For the rest of the decade, Ben busied himself with features, but nothing came as close to the grandeur of “Gandhi.” That is, until Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” As Oskar Schindler’s go-to guy Stern, much of the film’s moral and emotional center was placed on Ben’s shoulders – and much of the movie’s success is due to his quiet but strong performance.

As he aged, it seemed Ben Kingsley only got better. His status in parts grew, such as playing Moses on TV, and he often jumped back and forth between comedy and drama. Another powerhouse part was as badass Don Logan in “Sexy Beast” in 2000, followed by Anne Frank’s father, and then as Behrani in “House of Sand and Fog,” culminating in 2004 with “Thunderbirds.” Talk about versatility. He’s keeping especially busy as of late, sometimes producing his own work but always game to play a fun villain, a man with humility, or one of history’s great figures. Ben Kingsley is all of these things.

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Ben on the Screen

He started as Peter on the Brit show “Orlando” in 1966, and his first big screen part came six years later in “Fear is the Key,” thus beginning a decade long work in television before “Gandhi” brought him worldwide attention in 1982. He’s Dr. Watson to Michael Caine’s Sherlock Holmes in “Without a Clue” in 1988, Meyer Lansky in “Bugsy,” and Cosmo in “Sneakers.” 1993 showed Kingsley could do just about anything: he’s in the comedy “Dave” with Kevin Kline, Bruce Pandolfini in “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” and Itzhak Stern in “Schindler’s List.” He’s Sweeney Todd in 1997, Graydon in Mike Nichols’ “What Planet Are You From?,” and Don Logan in “Sexy Beast.” He narrates “A.I.” for Spielberg in 2001, is part of “Suspect Zero,” “Lucky Number Slevin,” “A Sound of Thunder,” “BloodRayne,” and Merlin in “The Last Legion.”

Ben Says

On his profession:
“I am – hello! – an actor, an entertainer, a song-and-dance man. I can do anything.”

On his great wish:
“I would like to make it known loud and clear that I would absolutely embrace with all five of my arms being a Bond villain.”

On talking craft:
“There’s so much crap talked about acting.”