'I never look back' ; INTERVIEW Sir Ben KinsgleyWith a career spanning more than 45 years, Sir Ben Kingsley is one of the UK's most revered and respected actors. Shereen Low catches up with a legend
THERE'S an air of serenity surrounding Sir Ben Kingsley.
For his latest film, South African director Gavin Hood's Ender's Game, the Yorkshire-born actor tapped into this Zen-like state in the make-up chair as his character Mazer Rackham's entire face is covered in tattoos.
I close my eyes and go into this meditative state - I sometimes run my lines, I sometimes go blank. Why over-complicate things? Kingsley saw first-hand the impressions the tattoos made on his fellow cast members, which included his Hugo co-star Asa Butterfield, as well as Hailee Steinfeld and Harrison Ford. Everyone was gathered together for Gavin's birthday. I walked in, in my Maori make-up for the first time, and it changed the way my fellow actors looked at and listened to me, he says.
It was the missing ingredient in my character that I didn't need to act.
Kingsley was Hood's first choice to play Mazer, the military commander given the task of training Ender (Butterfield) to be Earth's ultimate leader, who can save the planet.
The film marks a reunion for Kingsley and Butterfield, who previously starred together in Martin Scorsese's Hugo in 2011.
Asa is a beautiful actor - he's still expressing himself in the same way as he did on Hugo and I feel confident he will always, he says.
Young actors remind you not to put filters between you and the camera. They work from the heart. Harrison, Viola Davis and I had to step up our game to be as pure as they are, says Kingsley. Ender's Game is set in the sci-fi world but for Kingsley, who was knighted in 2002, it could well be Shakespeare.
The context is science fiction, just as the context of Hamlet is Denmark, he says. But the struggle for a young man's soul, from adolescence to young adulthood, is classic.
This story could have been told about an ancient Greek warrior four thousand years ago.
Born Krishna Pandit Bhanji in Yorkshire, he spent the first 15 years of his career on stage before moving to the small and big screens. He found fame when he starred in Gandhi in 1982. Since then, he has swung between independent films and Hollywood blockbusters, including Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island and Hugo.
Four times married with four children, the actor won't disclose his proudest or favourite role, but admits he has a soft spot for Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast.
As he prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday on December 31, he says: I never look back. It's always the next challenge, the next thing, he says.
His acting future includes roles in Ridley Scott's Exodus and a top-secret Marvel project, following his scene-stealing stint as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3.
I'm not allowed to say anything. You're going to have to wait and see. But it was lovely to see so many of the Iron Man 3 crew again, he teases.
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