Sir Ben Kingsley
(1943 - )

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Born Krishna Bhanji in Snaiton, Northern England in 1943, the boy who would become Ben Kingsley was raised in Salford by his physician father Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji and his fashion model mother Anna Lyna Mary. After being turned down by the prestigious London acting school RADA in 1965, Ben spent two years plying his trade in the English provinces before returning to London in 1967 on being invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

Over the next two decades, he would go on to perform at both the Royal Court and the National Theatre. Highlights include a 1967 Peter Brook staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream with the RSC in which he played Demetrius, and the one-man show, Edmund Kean. Based on the life of the great English thespian, the latter was the vehicle for Ben's Broadway debut in 1984.

Despite his glittering stage career, however, Ben's passage into films was a slow one. While he had a small part in the 1972 thriller ‘Fear Is The Key’, it took another ten years before he landed a starring role. But what a role it was. Veteran actor-director Richard Attenborough had spent months looking for the right man for his biopic of Indian independence leader Gandhi and when a friend approached him with Ben's name he had no idea what to expect. As soon as Richard saw the actor perform, he knew he had found his man. Within a year of Gandhi wrapping, Ben had nabbed a best actor Oscar and gone from relative anonymity to international prominence.

Despite the promise of immediate celebrity, Ben chose to concentrate on the theatre and European cinema. He had a starring role in a 1983 film version of the Harold Pinter play ‘Betrayal' and did a turn in James Ivory's 1987 adaptation of the EM Forster novel ‘Maurice’. Never one to turn his nose up at TV work, he also popped up in the title role of Silas Marner for the BBC in 1985.

By 1988, Hollywood could wait no longer, however, and he made his Tinseltown debut opposite Michael Caine in the Sherlock Holmes comedy ‘Without A Clue’. Three years later Ben was nominated Best Supporting Actor for ‘Bugsy’ and in 1993 gave a scene-stealing performance in Steven Spielberg's magnum opus ‘Schindler's List’. This performance as Itzhak Stern was perhaps my favourite of his whole career, played with compassion and understanding his acting is nearly hypnotic.

Hollywood's most successful director was obviously impressed because he approached Ben to provide the narration to 2000's Artificial Intelligence: AI.


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