BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Entertainment
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 10 March, 1999, 11:36 GMT
Kingsley: The craft of acting
Tim Sebastian talks to actor Ben Kingsley
Tim Sebastian talks to actor Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley, who shot to international fame when he won an Oscar playing Gandhi in the 1982 epic film, has said his only ambition was to be "seen and heard."

His acting career covers 30 films including Schindler's List and Species, a considerable achievement for a man born Khrishna Bhanji in a small Yorkshire village.

In an interview with BBC World's HARDtalk, Ben Kingsley talked about how he first realised he enjoying perfoming.

Ben Kingsley enjoyed doing impressions
Kingsley enjoyed doing impressions
"I had a great facility for entertaining every member of the classroom, I had a great facility for entertaining my parents," he said.

"I had a very very good ear and I was able to impersonate within microseconds the last person to the room with devastating accuracy and therefore the people had to bite on pillows, and bite their arms in order for the person who had just left the room not to have this howl of laughter in their wake.

"But that mimicry developed into something that I felt could be a craft."

It was when he went to a production of Richard III at Stratford-upon-Avon as a teenager and fainted with the heat during the performance that he realised he wanted to act.

He started work as a laboratory technician, doing amateur dramatics in his spare time. But his acting developed and he went to work at Stoke- on-Trent theatre and later with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. He also appeared in three episodes of Coronation Street in 1960, playing character Ron Jenkins.

But it was Schindler's List, in which he played the accountant, Itzhak Stern, that has perhaps given Ben Kingsley his greatest challenge, having to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust.

"I found the pain of studying for Schindler's List really quite gruelling," he said.

"In order to honour the dead I had to look at news footage, I had to read books, I had to look at photographs, to get it into my actor's psyche, to help Stephen [Spielberg] in his great work to convey to the world, as he most clearly did, that this happened."

Ben Kingsley spent three months filming in Poland and admitted it had taken its toll. But he told HARDtalk the strain was worth it.

"I think the film is beautiful," he said. "I think that our little bruises on our little actors' psyches are nothing compared to what we managed to get on the screen and the debate that it's provoked.

"If you come home with one or two bruises from the holocaust I consider that I got off quite lightly."

Taking orders

Ben Kingsley had played all sorts of characters but there is still one acting role he craves - a soldier.

He told HARDtalk he wanted to play the part of a man bound by orders and discipline and taking difficult decisions.

"I suppose I was very inspired by Private Ryan," he said.

"But that kind of a man in that kind of a situation, who has to make a decision in the military sense rather than the civil sense. I'd love to explore that."

As for the more general future, Ben Kingsley intends to just keep on acting.

"I'm producing a film at the moment in which I shall play the leading role. And then I have two or three films for this year, and then for the next 30-35 years I shall continue being an actor until I can't remember my lines any more."

You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full on BBC World and News 24 at the times shown below.

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
March 10 0730 and 0930

News 24 (times shown in GMT)
March 10 0330

Ben Kingsley: "I had a very very good ear"
Ben Kingsley: "I got off quite lightly"
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories