Sir Ben Kingsley (1943-) b. Scarborough, Yorkshire, England.
Born Krishna Bhanji, Kingsley was born in Yorkshire, the son of a general practitioner. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and started out in amateur dramatics as a teenager before making his professional debut aged 23. In 1967 he made his first London appearance at the Aldwych theatre and then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Kingsley went on to make his big screen debut in the Alistair MacLean adapted thriller Fear is the Key (1972). From 1975 to 1977, Kingsley worked with the National Theatre then subsequently returned to the RSC.
His film career took off when director Richard Attenborough selected Kingsley for the demanding lead role in the biopic Gandhi (1982). The film swept the international awards that year including an Academy Award for Best Actor. Kingsley spent the following decade playing a wide variety of characters in European films. Among his more notable parts was a born loser in Turtle Diary (1985), an Arab prince in Harem (1985), co-starring alongside James Wilby and Hugh Grant in Merchant Ivory’s Maurice (1987) and a suspected Nazi war criminal in Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden (1994). Subsequent Hollywood roles included playing the capable Dr. Watson to Michael Caine’s bumbling Sherlock Holmes in Without a Clue (1988), Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in Barry Levinson’s Bugsy (1991), an incorruptible American vice president in the Ivan Reitman comedy Dave (1993), Jewish bookkeeper Itshak Stern Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed Holocaust epic Schindler’s List (1993) and cast in a scarce good-guy role in the sci-fi thriller Species (1995).
In the latter half of the 1990s, Kingsley continued to embrace a variety of eclectic roles including barbarous barber Sweeney Todd in John Schlesinger’s made-for-tv The Tale of Sweeney Todd (1998). Retaining his thirst for variety, he entered into the new millennium with his scene-stealing portrayal of tightly wound Cockney gangster Don Logan in Sexy Beast (2000). Kingsley received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film adaptation of Andre Dubus III’s acclaimed novel, House of Sand and Fog (2003). He was knighted by the Queen in March 2002.
Kingsley was cast as the villainous The Hood in a embarrassing live-action adaptation of Thunderbirds (2004), based on Gerry Anderson’s the cult British television puppet show from the 1960s. He reunited with Roman Polanski to play the manipulative street urchin mentor Fagin in an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist (2005). Polankski’s ploddingly faithful adaptation proved to be watchable, but overshadowed by David Lean‘s 1948 version. In the convoluted and stylish noir thriller Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Kingsley was a feuding New York City crime boss named The Rabbi. In Elegy (2008), based on the Philip Roth novel, Kingsley was cast opposite Penélope Cruz as a divorced, womanising professor who is forcefully attracted to an attractive student.