Ben Kingsley talks about his admiration for Robert Zemeckis and what it means to start from zero
ONE cannot refer to Sir Ben Kingsley (71) without bringing up his debut leading role in 1982’s Gandhi when he won two Golden Globes, two Baftas and one Academy award. In fact, the versatile actor has credited the movie for the ease with which he fitted into the character of a Sikh driving instructor in Learning To Drive, which will premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. While the star has been noted in movies ranging from the Schindler’s List to Sexy Beast and Iron Man 3, his latest release sees him in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, based on a true story, where he plays the role of a mentor, Papa Rudy, who trains Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in the movie. More from him.
What initially attracted you to The Walk?
I was invited for this role by director, Robert Zemeckis. He has a great body of work for which he’s celebrated and will continue to be celebrated. I’ve always admired him, but had never worked with him. In conjunction with that, having read the script, I found it extremely well-written, unsentimental and strong. It’s always great to be asked to join these wonderful projects. I always feel secure when I can understand what my dramatic function is for the director.
Tell us about the character you play, Papa Rudy.
A lot of imagination goes into creating a character. The script is a wonderful start, because it gives you parameters and it gives the character a function. Rudy worked in the circus; I work as an actor. So this portrait had a lot to do with my imagination and a very good script.
You wanted to be an actor from the age of five. How did you know from such a young age?
I was very impressed — maybe that’s the right word to use for a child that young. I was deeply impressed and moved by a film I saw. Suddenly there was nobody else in the world, except myself and a child on the screen, who was a little boy about my age. When it did end I was in floods of tears. Somehow there was a connection between me and the screen. I couldn’t decipher it. The film was Never Take No for an Answer.
The Walk suggests that an artist will risk everything for the sake of his art. Is that something you can relate to yourself?
To a lesser extent, I think every day I do. I hope I risk everything, in that I hope I start from nothing. That nothing is accumulated. That there is no comment, no judgement, no assessment, no accolade, nothing. I have to start from zero. I have to put my foot on that tightrope for the first time every day I walk onto a film set.
Did you do anything special to
prepare for this film?
This may sound mundane, but it’s honest to any young actor who may come across this interview. I learn my lines until I know them so thoroughly that I will never let anybody down on the set. And in that process of learning what that man has to say, how that man meets the world with words, specifically how Papa Rudy teaches, is a huge indication to who he is and what he is. So I study the script for hours and hours and hours.
releases on October 9