Ben Kingsley biography
Born on December 31, 1943, in Scarborough, England, Khrishna Bhanji switched his name to Ben Kingsley and developed a stage and TV career. He shot to prominence in the film Gandhi, for which he won an Oscar. Kingsley has since acted in a variety of projects like Bugsy, Dave and Twelfth Night that showcase his wide range. He has earned numerous other awards and was knighted in 2002.
Actor Krishna Bhanji, better known as Ben Kingsley, was born on December 31, 1943 in Snaiton, North Yorkshire, England. Raised in Salford, England, as the son of a Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, a Kenyan-born physician of Indian extraction and Anna Lyna Mary Bhanji, an English-born fashion model, Kingsley began acting as a teenager. He took the name Ben as a tribute to his father, who had been called Ben in college.
Kingsley joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967 and soon began performing in lead roles, including Demetrius in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a role which he reprised for a tour of U.S. cities in 1971, and the title role in Hamlet in 1975. Kingsley first appeared on the big screen in the Alistair MacLean thriller Fear is the Key (1972), and made his television debut that same year in the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) series The Love School.
From 1975 to 1977, Kingsley worked with the National Theatre; he subsequently returned to the RSC, where he originated the role of Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby. When the production traveled to Broadway, Kingsley was unable to reprise the role due to film commitments. His film career soared to unforeseen heights in 1981 with his first starring role, in the title role in Richard Attenborough's acclaimed biopic Gandhi. Appearing in only his second film, Kingsley won numerous accolades for his performance, including an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Kingsley appeared in seven more European films, notably a 1983 adaptation of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, co-starring Jeremy Irons, and James Ivory's Maurice (1987), and made his Broadway debut in the one-man show Edmund Kean (1984), before making his U.S. film debut in Without a Clue (1988), playing the capable Dr. Watson to Michael Caine's bumbling Sherlock Holmes. The film was an unusually comic choice for Kingsley, and it met with mixed reviews. In 1989, he again ventured into historical biopic territory, earning critical praise for his performance in the title role of the HBO feature Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story, as the famed Holocaust survivor who steadfastly sought vengeance against the Nazis.
Kingsley earned his second Academy Award nomination for his sharp-edged supporting turn as Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in the Warren Beatty vehicle Bugsy (1991). After a villainous performance in the thriller Sneakers (1992), costarring Robert Redford, he essayed a trio of more benevolent roles, including a patient coach to a chess prodigy in Searching for Bobby Fischer, a U.S. vice president in the comedy Dave, costarring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, and Itshak Stern, the trusted friend of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) in Steven Spielberg's acclaimed Holocaust epic Schindler's List (all 1993). This last performance garnered Kingsley his best reviews since Gandhi, and once again proved the actor's gift for portraying complicated characters of uncommon dignity and historical importance.
A series of less well received movies followed, including Roman Polanski's Death and the Maiden (1994), the science fiction thriller Species (1995), the spy drama The Assignment (1997), the alien comedy What Planet are You From? (2000), costarring Garry Shandling and Annette Bening, and the military thriller Rules of Engagement (2000). In addition, Kingsley acted in a number of high profile TV projects, including the TNT miniseries Joseph (1995) and Moses (1996, in which Kingsley played the title role), Showtime's The Tale of Sweeney Todd (1998), and the NBC movies Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" (1998) and Alice in Wonderland (1999).
Kingsley had a busy year in 2001, beginning with his chilling, outrageous performance as the tightly wound British gangster Don Logan in the British import Sexy Beast. For the scene-stealing turn, Kingsley earned rave reviews and numerous critical accolades, including his fourth Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. The same year, he nabbed an Emmy nod for another supporting performance, as Otto Frank in the well received ABC miniseries Anne Frank. Kingsley also narrated the Spielberg-directed science fiction film A.I. Artificial Intelligence and co-starred with Mira Sorvino in The Triumph of Love, which was released in the U.S. in 2002. In 2004, Kingsley received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film adaptation of Andre Dubus III's acclaimed novel, House of Sand and Fog.
Kingsley has a son and daughter, Thomas and Jasmine, from his first marriage to actress Angela Morant, and two sons, Edmund and Ferdinand, from his second to theater director Alison Sutcliffe, with whom he worked on the one-man show Edmund Kean. He and his third wife, Alexandra, separated after just 15 months of marriage in 2005.
On March 19, 2002, Kingsley was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.