When I choose a role its either because I recognize the man, or, that I'm very curious to know him. If I neither recognize nor know him then it is better that I dont play him. - Sir Ben Kingsley
Cinequest is honored and thrilled to present An Afternoon with Sir Ben Kingsley at the palatial California Theatre. The legendary Academy Award-winning actor, Sir Ben Kingsley, will participate in a lively, moderated conversation and receive Cinequest's highest honor, The Maverick Spirit Award.
A master of both Shakespearean and motion-picture acting, Sir Ben continually demonstrates his extraordinary and brilliant artistry in roles as diverse as a seminal religious leader in Gandhi, for which he won an Academy Award, to ruthless killer, Don Logan, in Sexy Beast.
Sir Ben was born Krishna Bhanji in North Yorkshire, England. His father, of Gujarat (Indian) descent had traveled to England from East Africa to attend school and later married an actress/fashion model of English/Russian-Jewish descent. Young Ben had originally planned to become a doctor like his father, but at the age of 19, after watching Ian Holms portrayal of Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Company, he immediately took to acting.
It was 1966 when he made his London stage debut in A Smashing Day, produced by Beatles manager Brian Epstein, for which Sir Ben also wrote the songs and played guitar. One night, after the performance, John Lennon and Ringo Starr told him that he should go into music or he'd regret it for the rest of his life. Offered both a contract by the Beatles publisher and a chance to perform in The Cherry Orchard and Macbeth, he chose the latter.
Whether or not one believes in destiny, Sir Ben has left no doubt that his was to be an actor. His acceptance by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967 (with very little experience) marked the true beginning of a phenomenal journey—one that would find him taking the lead in countless productions in London, touring the United States and lighting up Broadway. Highlighted theatre roles include: A Midsummers Night Dream, Measure for Measure, The Tempest (for which he also wrote the music), Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, the RSCs award-winning adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby and a two-hour solo performance as Vukhov in Barry Collins Judgement.
Fond to his heart is his second one-man show, Kean, based on the colorful and tumultuous life of actor Edmund Kean. It says a lot about acting and actors, says Sir Ben of the role, and, like Ghandi, it helps me to understand myself.
Sir Ben's film career began in 1972 with the thriller Fear is the Key. Having already spent some years in television in the British series Coronation Street, he continued to garner roles in The Brotherhood, The Artisan, An Impeccable Elopement and the BBC production of Silas Marner, before landing the lead in Gandhi.
Meticulously preparing for the role, he read biographies and ploughed through most of Ghandi's own writings. He listened to recordings of his voice, wallpapered his room with photographs of him, practiced yoga every day and lost masses of weight.
Sir Ben quickly followed his success with roles in Betrayal (opposite Patricia Hodge and Jeremy Irons), Turtle Diary (opposite Glenda Jackson) and in Arthur Joffes Harem (opposite Nastassja Kinski). After various groundbreaking roles inside and out of Hollywood, he received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Meyer Lansky in Bugsy and created unforgettable characters in Sneakers, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Death and the Maiden and for his emotive portrayal of Itzhak Stern in Steven Spielberg's Schindlers List.
In 2001, Kingsley was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, marking a memorable year. Sir Ben's performance as the psychopathic gangster in Sexy Beast garnered worldwide accolades and an Academy Award nomination. And he has delighted audiences in recent years in such films as A.I., Suspect Zero, Triumph of Love, Rules of Engagement, What Planet Are You From? and House of Sand and Fog, which landed him a fourth Academy nomination.
Graceful, erudite and exploratory, Sir Ben's approach is never simple, and rather than merely adding depth to a character, he adds radiance, integrity, morality—mesmerizing his fans with characters that shine. They are complete. They are whole. And they are all reflections of our humanity.
- Michael Rabehl