Sir Ben Kingsley: Tender is the Knight

Sir Ben Kingsley’s combustible blend of sensitivity and strength makes it impossible to ignore his work. From where does he draw such presence and potency? The answer lies in the darker fringes of human experience.

  • fashion director Grace Gilfeather

  • by Nick Scott

  • photography Austin Hargrave

A choice nugget of Kingslian folklore takes us toSir Benschildhood, and a small cinema in Salford, Greater Manchester, about 100 miles south-west of his birthplace near Scarborough. The movie unfolding before the youngboy then named Krishna Pandit Bhanji is 1951s Never Take No for an Answer, a tender fable about a nine-year-old war orphan, Peppino, who walks 100 miles south to Rome so that the Pope might heal his beloved, sick donkey.

Sir Ben, speaking in Los Angeles before the photos you see here are captured,picksup the story:The last shot of the film is the little boy leading his donkey into a shaft of light coming into the chapel, by which time I was reduced to a bundle of tears. It was so beautiful to watch that redemptive gesture on film. After the movie the cinema owner saw me in the crowd and lifted me up in his armsand shouted,Its little Peppino, its little Peppino!Physically I looked very like him. It was just an extraordinary afternoon. Im sure that it wasthelife-changing moment.

Fast-forward almost seven decades, and the latest chapterofSir Ben Kingsleys career is unfolding inPerpetual Grace, LTD,the Americantelevisionneo-noir thriller that has drawn praise from some of the most critically parsimonious observers thanks to its ever-thickening plot,finely judgeddramatic tension,and stellar performances from a cast that also includesWestworlds Jimmi Simpson, Luis Guzmán (Traffic,Punch-Drunk Love), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) and Terry OQuinn,ofLostfame.

Sir Ben is bristling with enthusiasm about the 10-part series.I would say, summing up all the ingredientsthe writing, the directing, the camera positioning, the experience of discovering another actor like I discovered Luis Guzmán, who was discovering meI would say thats its up on a pinnacle of experience for me.

Published

August 2019

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