Sir Ben Kingsley (born Krishna Pandit Bhanji; 31 December 1943) is an English actor of Indian origin with a career spanning over 50 years. He has won an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Kingsley in July 2014
Krishna Pandit Bhanji
31 December 1943
Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Children||4, including Ferdinand|
Kingsley is best known for his starring role as Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also appeared in Schindler's List (1993), Twelfth Night (1996), Sexy Beast (2000), House of Sand and Fog (2003), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Shutter Island (2010), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Hugo (2011), The Dictator (2012) and Iron Man 3 (2013). He has also voiced Snatcher in The Boxtrolls (2014), and Bagherra in the live action adaptation of Disney's The Jungle Book (2016).
Kingsley was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2002 for services to the British film industry. In 2010, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2013, he received the Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment.
Kingsley was born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji on 31 December 1943 in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire, the son of actress and model Anna Lyna Mary (née Goodman; 1914–2010) and doctor Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji (1914–1968). His mother was English; she was born out of wedlock, and "was loath to speak of her background". His father was born in Kenya and was of Gujarati Indian descent. Kingsley's paternal grandfather was a successful spice trader who had moved from India to Zanzibar, where Kingsley's father lived until moving to the UK at the age of 14. Kingsley grew up in Pendlebury, Lancashire. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School, where one of his classmates was actor Robert Powell.
Kingsley's maternal grandfather was believed by the family to have been of Russian- or German-Jewish descent, while his maternal grandmother was English and worked in the garment district of London's East End. Kingsley stated in 1994, "I'm not Jewish, and though there might be some Russian-Jewish heritage way back on my mother's side, the thread is so fine there's no real evidence."
Kingsley studied at De La Salle College in Salford, which later became home to the Ben Kingsley Theatre. While at college he became involved in amateur dramatics in Manchester, making his professional stage debut on graduation, aged 23. In 1967, he made his London West End theatre debut at the Aldwych Theatre. Later, he was spotted by music producer and manager Dick James, who offered to mould Kingsley into a pop star, but Kingsley chose to join the Royal Shakespeare Company after an audition before Trevor Nunn.
Devoting himself almost exclusively to stage work for the next 15 years, he made his Broadway debut in 1971 with the RSC. Kingsley played Mosca in Peter Hall's 1977 production of Ben Jonson's Volpone for the Royal National Theatre, and in Peter Brook's acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. At about this time, he changed his name to Ben Kingsley, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career. He also starred in the role of Willy Loman in a 1982 Sydney production of Death of a Salesman opposite Mel Gibson.
Film and television
Kingsley made the transition to film roles early on, with his first role coming in Fear Is the Key, released in 1972. Kingsley continued starring in bit roles in both film and television, including a role as Ron Jenkins on the soap opera Coronation Street from 1966 to 1967 and regular appearances as a defence counsel in the long-running British legal programme Crown Court. In 1975, he starred as Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the BBCs historical drama The Love School and appeared in the TV miniseries Dickens of London the following year. He found fame as Mohandas Gandhi in the Academy Award-winning film Gandhi in 1982. The film was a critical and financial success, and Kingsley won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Kingsley has since appeared in a variety of roles. His credits included the films Turtle Diary, Maurice, Pascali's Island, Without a Clue (as Dr. Watson alongside Michael Caine's Sherlock Holmes), Suspect Zero, Bugsy (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), Sneakers, Dave, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Schindler's List, Silas Marner, Death and the Maiden, Sexy Beast, for which he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and House of Sand and Fog, which led to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He won a Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2001.
In July 2006, he received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the made-for-TV film Mrs. Harris, in which he played famed cardiologist Herman Tarnower, who was murdered by his jilted lover, Jean Harris. Later that year, Kingsley appeared in an episode of The Sopranos entitled "Luxury Lounge", playing himself. In 2007, Kingsley appeared as a Polish American mobster in the Mafia comedy You Kill Me, and a hitman in War, Inc.
In 2010, Kingsley worked voicing a character named Sabine in Lionhead Studios game Fable III and starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese. He also appeared in Scorsese's next film, Hugo, and signed up to appear in a new feature by Neil Jordan and John Boorman entitled Broken Dream.
Kingsley's 2014 film roles included Exodus: Gods and Kings, as Nun, a Hebrew slave, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, as Merenkahre, a simulacrum of an Egyptian pharaoh and father of Ahkmenrah (in one scene, the character discusses his Hebrew slaves).
In 2015, Kingsley played a driving instructor in the film Learning to Drive. He voiced Bagheera in the live-action adaptation of Disney's The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau and recorded Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi in book-on-tape format.
Kingsley has been married four times and has four children: Thomas Bhanji and artist Jasmin Bhanji, with actress Angela Morant, and Edmund Kingsley and Ferdinand Kingsley, both of whom became actors, with theatrical director Alison Sutcliffe. He divorced Alexandra Christmann in 2005, having been "deeply, deeply shocked" after pictures of her kissing another man surfaced on the internet. On 3 September 2007, Kingsley married Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender at Eynsham Hall in North Leigh, Oxfordshire.
Kingsley is a Quaker.
Kingsley was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2002 New Year Honours for services to the British film industry. The award was announced on 31 December 2001, which happened to be Kingsley's 58th birthday. After receiving his award from Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, Kingsley stated; "I told the Queen that winning an Oscar pales into insignificance – this is insurmountable. I'm fascinated by the ancient, by mythology, by these islands and their tradition of story telling. I feel that I am a story teller and to receive a knighthood is really recognition of that." His demand to be called 'Sir' was documented by the BBC, to some criticism. Since then, Kingsley appears to have altered his stance; credits for his latest films refer to him as Ben Kingsley. Co-star Penélope Cruz was reportedly unsure what to call him during the filming of Elegy as someone had told her she needed to refer to him as "Sir Ben". One day it slipped out as such, and she called him that for the remainder of the shoot. Kingsley has denied accusations that he prefers to be referred to by his title, saying, "If I've ever insisted on being called 'Sir' by colleagues on a film set then I am profoundly sorry. I don't remember ever doing that and I tend not to forget."
In 1984, he won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or Nonmusical Recording for The Words of Gandhi. He was awarded the Indian civilian honour Padma Shri in 1984. In May 2010, Kingsley was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In April 2013, Kingsley was honoured with the Fellowship Award at The Asian Awards in London.
Awards and nominations
- "Sir Ben: Knighthood beats Oscar". BBC News. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Sir Ben Kingsley gets star on Hollywood Walk of Fame". BBC News. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
- "The Britannia Awards: Kathryn Bigelow and Sir Ben Kingsley". Bafta. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
- "Kingsley, Sir Ben, (born 31 Dec. 1943), actor". Who's Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.23178.
- Steele, Francesca (19 April 2014). "Ferdinand Kingsley interview: 'Yeah, but mum's dad was totally bald too!'". The Spectator. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "Ben Kingsley". Belief. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "Ben Kingsley Biography (1943-)". www.filmreference.com. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Husband, Stuart (24 April 2013). "Sir Ben Kingsley: 'Without a mask, I haven't got a clue'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
- Pfefferman, Naomi (18 May 2001). "Shoah dramas continue to compel actor Ben Kingsley". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
- Tugend, Tom (13 April 2001). "Incidental Intelligence". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.
- "Sir Ben Kingsley's gold turban". A History of the World in 100 Objects. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Bennetts, Leslie (13 December 1982). "Ben Kingsley's Journey From Hamlet to Gandhi". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
- Von Busack, Richard. Sexy Beast. Metroactive movies. March 2005.
- Pathak, Rujul. Ben Kingsley's Chameleon Characters Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Little India.com. 15 June 2005.
- Walsh, John (6 March 2010). "Sir Ben Kingsley: 'I was blessed by being a very popular child". The Independent. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Krieger, Hilary Leila (10 April 2005). "'Gandhi' brings his 'truth-force' to Palestinian audiences". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012.: "The grandmother of the knighted Royal Shakespeare Company alum spoke Yiddish she picked up while a garment worker in London's East End a century ago. "She was violently opposed to talking about this, so my poor mother was at the receiving end of a rage attack every time my grandmother was asked about her husband, her lover, whoever it was, but it's believed that he was a Russian Jew or a German Jew called Goodman", Kingsley told The Jerusalem Post".
- Pollack, Joe (3 January 1994). "He's No Stranger to Holocaust". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
I'm not Jewish," he said, "and though there might be some Russian-Jewish heritage way back on my mother's side, the thread is so fine there's no real evidence...
- Stated in interview on Inside the Actors Studio
- "Sir Ben's Sexy honour", BBC News. 31 December 2001.
- Andre Deutsch (2003 ). "Variety International Film Guide". p. 377.
- "Berlinale: 1998 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- "Ben Kingsley & John Hurt for Neil Jordan–John Boorman film 'Broken Dream'". IFTN. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
- "Ridley Scott In 'Exodus' Talks With Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul". deadline.com. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Doty, Meriah. "Ben Kingsley Reveals the Challenges of 'Learning to Drive' and the Beauty of Connecting With Fans". Yahoo. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- "Ben Kingsley To Voice Bagheera In Disney's 'The Jungle Book'". Deadline. 25 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Ensor, Josie (14 April 2013). "Sir Ben Kingsley: my Hollywood actress mother was jealous of my success". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
- "Kingsley Admits Devastation at Adulterous Wife Photos". Contact Music News. 16 November 2005. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
- "Kingsley weds Brazilian actress". BBC News. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Wade, Dave (25 April 2015). "The faith forgotten in its hometown". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- "Sir Ben Kingsley's identity is as colourful as his characters". Radio Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
- "No. 56430". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2001. p. 1.
- "Parker and Kingsley receive New Year knighthoods". The Guardian. 31 December 2001. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
- "Lord Puttnam dubs Sir Ben 'barmy'". BBC News. 20 February 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Cruz Baffled By Kingsley's Title (WENN News) at IMDb
- Hastings, Chris (26 February 2006). "If I ever insisted on being called 'Sir' on a film, then I am really sorry, says Sir Ben Kingsley". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
- "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
- "Special Report: Asian Awards 2013". BollySpice.com - The latest movies, interviews in Bollywood. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "Grammy Award Nominees 1985 - Grammy Award Winners 1985". www.awardsandshows.com.