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Sir Ben Kingsley
Biographical Information
Name Ben Kingsley
Birthplace Snainton, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England
Born date December 31, 1943
Series information
Appearances Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Character Nizam

Sir Ben Kingsley CBE (born Krishna Pandit Bhanji) is an English actor. He is known for his starring role as Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also known for his performances in the films Schindler's List (1993), Sexy Beast (2000), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Shutter Island (2010), and Iron Man 3 (2013). He portrayed Nizam in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.



Born Krishna Bhanji in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England on Dec. 31, 1943, Kingsley was the son of English model-actress Anne Lyna Goodman and her husband, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, a Muslim Indian physician. Growing up in Pendlebury, Salford, England, Kingsley attended Manchester Grammar School and later gained admission to the University of Salford. Kingsley began his acting career in 1966, making his London stage debut as the narrator in A Smashing Day, a musical produced by Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles.

Impressed with his vocals and guitar prowess, Epstein introduced the young Kingsley to John Lennon and Ringo Starr, both of whom urged the young Kingsley to pursue a career in music. Kingsley, however, politely downplayed his musical talents, and chose to remain with his true passion: acting. His decision proved to be a rewarding one, and within a year, Kingsley was invited to join the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, signifying that his career was officially off and running.

He continued to go by his birth name of Krishna Bhanji well into the 1970s, but Kingsley eventually decided his exotic-sounding name could be a liability. Worried that he would be typecast in strictly “ethnic" roles, Bhanji officially donned the far more Anglo-sounding “Ben Kingsley” as his stage name in his mid-30s. The name was, in part, a homage to his paternal grandfather, a Zanzibaran spice trader whose nickname was The Clove King. Kingsley's first film credit was a supporting role in the 1972 thriller Fear Is the Key.

Kingsley’s performance earned him positive reviews which then opened the door to small television roles. Up to this point, Kingsley’s career had plodded along unremarkably, and he seemed destined to be confined to the ranks of supporting cast for the rest of his career.

This all changed drastically, however, in 1980, when acclaimed director Sir Richard Attenborough held a massive casting call for an unknown to play the lead in his epic three-and-a-half hour biopic of Mohandas Gandhi. Ironically chosen partly for the same ethnic background he had attempted to downplay for years, Kingsley was, pressured by the filmmakers to go on a worldwide campaign to promote his Indian heritage.

One of the most elaborate productions of its time, Kingsley’s decades-spanning performance as the revered Indian leader proved a revelation. Despite its long running time, Gandhi drew enough audiences to become a worldwide hit, earning nearly $53 million in the U.S. alone. Moviegoers and critics were equally impressed, and for his efforts, Kingsley was deservedly honored with the 1982 Academy Award for Best Actor.

Unfortunately, as he had once feared, Gandhi also succeeded in typecasting Kingsley for years to come. Often called upon to carry the moral weight of his films, Kingsley’s post-“Gandhi” roles consisted mainly of playing intellectuals and non-threatening protagonists in such bland films as 1985's Turtle Diary, and Harem, and 1988's Without a Clue. Thankfully, Kingsley made a welcome return to mainstream cinema in 1991 with an superb supporting role in Bugsy as paternal mobster Meyer Lansky. Kingsley served as the voice of reason to Warren Beatty’s, hot-headed Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

Though his portrayal of Lansky earned him a second Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actor, his most impressive performance after his success in Gandhi came in 1993 in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Schindler's List. Kingsley poured himself into the character of Itzhak Stern, a clever Jewish accountant who was the brains behind the industrialist, Oskar Schindler. His interplay with Liam Neeson (as Schindler) personified the warmth of a relationship which was a rare glimmer of sanity in the insane world of the time.

1993 proved big for Kingsley, as later that year, he not only played an ambitious U.S. Vice President in the Ivan Reitman comedy, Dave, but also the chess master, Bruce Pandolfini, in Steve Zaillian's film Searching for Bobby Fisher and Death and the Maiden, alongside Sigourney Weaver.

Though his performances were almost always admired by critics, audiences, and especially by his fellow actors, Kingsley’s time as Don Logan in Sexy Beast reintroduced him to a whole new generation of moviegoers. Moving like a cat on the prowl through his scenes, Kingsley imbued a sense of menace in his jewel thief character, especially in his scenes opposite his Beast co-star, Ray Winstone. Kingsley delivered yet another masterful, career-defining performance in 2003's highly acclaimed "House of Sand and Fog," playing an expatriate Iranian colonel who is forced to battle his conscience and the ghosts of his past. The film’s tragic twists and turns provided him with one of the most complex and nuanced film appearances of his career, expertly essaying both the flawed and noble sides of his character. “House of Sand and Fog” earned Kingsley a wealth of critical acclaim - his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and fourth Oscar nomination overall, along with Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominations.

After a career pratfall in the 2004's Thunderbirds remake, the actor later that year essayed a titular serial killer who murders other serial killers in the atmospheric thriller Suspect Zero.

Kingsley was then game for another over-the-top performance in the 2005 futuristic thriller A Sound of Thunder, about the dangers of using time travel for fun and profit. That same year, on a more serious trek, Kingsley reunited with Roman Polanski to play the manipulative street urchin mentor Fagin in an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist.

After accepting another the role in Bloodrayne Kingsley appeared in Lucky Number Slevin. In 2006, Kingsley starred in HBO's Mrs. Harris. Kingsley was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Kingsley has a 2011 film project in the works called Taj about a troubled Indian writer who finds new meaning in life when he and his twelve-year-old daughter from a previous broken marriage discover a box of Lego bricks at a garage sale, and decide to build a model of the Taj Mahal together.

Selected Filmography

Year Movie Character
1972 Fear Is The Key Royale
1982 Gandhi Mohandas Gandhi
1983 Betrayal Robert
1985 Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe Silas Marner
Harem Selim
1986 Turtle Diary William Snow
1987 The Secret of the Sahara (TV) Sholomon
Maurice Lasker-Jones
1988 Pascali's Island Basil Pascali
Without a Clue Dr. John Watson
Testimony— The Story of Shostakovich Dmitri Shostakovich
1989 Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story Simon Wiesenthal
1990 The 5th Monkey Cunda
1991 Bugsy Meyer Lansky
1992 Sneakers Cosmo
Freddie as F.R.O.7 Freddie The Frog (voice)
1993 Searching for Bobby Fischer Bruce Pandolfini
Dave Vice President Gary Nance
Schindler's List Itzhak Stern
1994 Death and the Maiden Dr. Roberto Miranda
1995 Species]] Xavier Fitch
Joseph Potiphar
Moses Moses
1996 Twelfth Night Feste
1997 Weapons of Mass Distraction (TV) Julian Messenger
The Assignment Amos
1998 The Tale of Sweeney Todd (TV) Sweeney Todd
1999 Alice in Wonderland (TV) Major Caterpillar
The Confession Harry Fertig
2000 What Planet Are YOU From? Graydon
Rules of Engagement Ambassador Mourain
Islam: Empire of Faith Narrator (voice)
2001 Anne Frank: The Whole Story Otto Frank
Sexy Beast Don Logan
AI: Artificial Intelligence Specialist (voice)
2002 The Triumph of Love Hermocrates
Tuck Everlasting Man in the Yellow Suit
2003 House of Sand and Fog Massoud Behrani
2004 Thunderbirds "The Hood"
Suspect Zero Benjamin O'Ryan
2005 A Sound of Thunder Charles Hatton
Oliver Twist Fagin
Mrs. Harris Herman Tarnower
BloodRayne Kagan
2006 The Sopranos (TV) Himself
Lucky Number Slevin The Rabbi
2007 You Kill Me Frank Falenczyk
The Last Legion Ambrosinus
The Ten Commandments Narrator (voice)
2008 Elegy David Kepesh
War, Inc. Walken
The Love Guru Guru Tugginmypudha
The Wackness Dr. Squires
Transsiberian Grinko
China's Stolen Children Narrator (voice)
Fifty Dead Men Walking Fergus
2009 Noah's Ark: The New Beginning Narrator (voice)
Journey to Mecca Narrator (voice)
2010 Shutter Island Dr. John Cawley
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Nizam
Whispers Like Thunder Vice President Charles Curtis
Teen Patti Perci Trachtenberg
2011 Taj Shah Jahan