Bright Side

An Actor Can Transform Into a Person of Any Nationality, and We Hardly Imagine He’s Played Both Gandhi and Lenin

The ability to portray a variety of roles is the main quality of a good actor. Talented actors can play both a positive family man, a cynical evildoer, or a broken loser equally well. The highest mastery is to be able to depict the representative of another nationality without using tons of makeup. That’s what British actor Ben Kingsley is famous for. Over the course of his career, he has played the roles of Mahatma Gandhi, Vladimir Lenin, and even an Egyptian pharaoh.

Bright Side is going to tell you the story of this outstanding person whose appearance magically combines the features of many different nations and nationalities.

Ben Kingsley’s real name is Krishna Pandit Bhanji. He was born in 1943 to the family of a doctor of Indian origin, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji and a British model Anna Lyna Mary Goodman, who had both Russian and Jewish roots. There were 3 more kids in their family besides him.

Ben Kingsley at the premiere of The Boxtrolls cartoon, 2014

His parents believed that he would become a doctor. The actor himself admits that he wasn’t against it, ’’I did physics, chemistry, and biology at Manchester Grammar School. I don’t regret that. It has given me a forensic fascination with taking a character apart." says the actor.

Their family trip to Stratford-upon-Avon became a turning point for Kingsley. There he went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see Ian Holm playing Richard III. Kingsley recalls that he started to copy the actor’s movements at some point and later he passed out. It either happened due to a strong emotional reaction or the July heatwave and stuffiness in the theater. When Ben left the theater and joined his parents, he declared that he wanted to be an actor.

Ben Kingsley with his wife Daniela Lavender at the premiere of the movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2010

His first interview wasn’t that successful because the worker of the theater simply couldn’t say the name Krishna Bhanji correctly and it really upset the young actor. He didn’t end up getting the role, but afterward, on the advice of his father, Krishna decided to use a nickname that would sound more pleasant in English. Thus, Krishna Bhanji turned into Ben Kingsley.

In 1967, Kingsley became a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He then dedicated the next 15 years of his life to theater, acting in plays like Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, etc. At the same time, Kingsley was filmed in TV series and movies where he got the occasional role here and there.

Director Richard Attenborough and Ben Kingsley at the 55th Academy Awards, 1983

Everything changed when, in 1982, Kingsley got the main role in the historical movie Gandhi, dedicated to the life of the main ideologist of the movement for the liberation of India, Mahatma Gandhi.

He has confessed many times that Gandhi’s role was a huge responsibility for him. According to Kingsley, he prepared for this movie “methodically and scientifically” — he read many biographical books, watched old videos, and carefully examined every photo that he could get his hands on. In addition, the actor completely switched to a vegetarian diet after which he lost almost 22 lbs, shaved his head, began to practice yoga and meditate, and even learned to spin.

All these efforts brought him much success because Kingsley got 5 cinema awards for his outstanding acting including an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, as well as a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award for Best New Actor.

Ben Kingsley at the opening ceremony for his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2010

After that, Ben Kingsley has been nominated many times for an Oscar and Golden Globe. In 2002, he was awarded the title of Knight for his contribution in British cinematography. The actor confessed in one of his interviews that this fact has somewhat compensated for the lack of attention from his parents in his childhood, “I got recognition from the Queen... I wanted to come up to every passer-by on the street and tell them that my mother loves me. That’s how I was feeling it,” he said.

The actor has acted in more than 100 movies and TV series over the course of his acting career, including House of Sand and Fog, Schindler’s List, Lucky Number Slevin, Shutter Island, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, etc. There is hardly any character that Kingsley wouldn’t be able to reincarnate into. He has played an American gangster, and an Arab sheik, a rabbi, an Egyptian pharaoh, the President of Afghanistan, and many others.

Here are the brightest roles of Ben Kingsley.

Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi (1982)

Arab sheikh Selim in Harem (1985)

British psychologist Lasker-Jones in Maurice (1987)

Dr. John Watson in Without a Clue (1988)

Vladimir Lenin in Lenin...The Train (1988)

The American gangster Meyer Lansky in Bugsy (1991)

Polish Jew Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List (1993)

Dr. Roberto Miranda, supporter of the fascist regime in Chile, in the movie Death and the Maiden (1994)

The prophet Moses in Moses, a TV movie (1995)

The Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland (1999)

Former Iranian colonel Massoud Amir Behrani in House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Ambrosinus/Merlin in The Last Legion (2007)

Russian policeman Ilya Grinko in Transsiberian (2008)

The younger brother of the Persian king in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Georges Méliès, the owner of the toy store, in Hugo (2011)

The uncle of the dictator of a fictional North African country in The Dictator (2012)

Persian healer and philosopher Ibn Sina in The Physician (2013)

Driving instructor, Darwan Singh Tur, in Learning to Drive (2014)

The Egyptian Pharaoh in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)

The president of Afghanistan in War Machine (2017)

Serbian war criminal in An Ordinary Man (2017)

German and Gestapo officer Adolf Eichmann in Operation Finale (2018)

Which other actors would you call masters of transformation? We would love to read your list in the comments!