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Kingsley, Sir Ben (1942-)


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Of Anglo-Indian parentage Ben Kingsley (real name Krishna Bhanji) joined the RSC in 1967 and spent the next 15 years appearing mainly on stage. He made his film debut as Royale in Fear is the Key (d. Michael Tuchner, 1972) and appeared briefly in Hard Labour (d. Mike Leigh, 1973).

After almost a decade he returned to film when he was cast in the title role in Gandhi (UK/India, d. Richard Attenborough, 1982), winning an Oscar and BAFTA for his subtle and compelling performance.

He demonstrated his versatility in a variety of roles since, including Shostakovich in Testimony (d. Tony Palmer, 1987), clever Dr Watson in Without a Clue (1988, UK/US), Itzhak Stern in Schindler's List (US, d. Steven Spielberg, 1993), Dr Roberto Miranda meeting his nemesis in Death and the Maiden (UK/France/US, d. Roman Polanski, 1994), a very intelligent Feste in Twelfth Night (UK/US, d. Trevor Nunn, 1996), and terrifying as the gangster bent on recruiting former colleague Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast (UK/Spain/US, d. Jonathan Glazer, 2000).

He has also worked extensively in international films, including Bugsy (US, d. Warren Beatty, 1991) and on TV, including Silas Marner (BBC, 1985). He was knighted in 2002.

Anne-Marie Thomas, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Gandhi (1982)Gandhi (1982)

Large-scale Oscar-winning biopic of the great Indian spiritual leader

Thumbnail image of Maurice (1987)Maurice (1987)

Merchant-Ivory Forster adaptation, about a gay affair in Cambridge

Thumbnail image of Sexy Beast (2000)Sexy Beast (2000)

Unusually inventive addition to the late 1990s gangster cycle

Thumbnail image of Antony and Cleopatra (1974)Antony and Cleopatra (1974)

Trevor Nunn's imaginatively stylised RSC production

Thumbnail image of Hard Labour (1973)Hard Labour (1973)

Mike Leigh's first TV drama, about the travails of domestic drudgery

Thumbnail image of Merry Wives of Windsor, The (1982)Merry Wives of Windsor, The (1982)

Oddly low-key BBC adaptation of Shakespeare's rollicking English farce

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