Mar 10 2014
In this week’s new science-fiction adventure Ender’s Game, Sir Ben Kingsley plays ‘Mazer Rackham’: a legendary warrior who serves as a mentor to our young hero. Rackham is described in the film (and in the original source material) as a half-Maori New Zealander and Kingsley pulls of the part with a convincing and gentle Kiwi accent, as well as some prominent facial tattoos.
This isn’t the first time he’s been called on to play characters from all corners of the world. Here are just a few of his roles that best show the geographic range of cinema’s foremost acting knight:
1. Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi) – India
Born Krishna Bhanji to a father of Indian descent, Ben Kingsley was a shoo-in to play the greatest political figure in Indian history. On top of being a tremendous actor, Kingsley’s resemblance to a young Gandhi was more than just passing.
Kingsley would later play another Indian character on the big screen, as ‘Guru Tugginmypuddha’ in Mike Myers’ unfortunate The Love Guru.
2. Georges Méliès (Hugo) – France
In Martin Scorsese’s period family fantasy, Sir Ben plays the famed French film director and pioneer of early special effects. Shown in the twilight of his life, Méliès has long since packed up his bag of tricks and taken to selling at repairing toys in a Paris train station. He’s determined to live out his life as a recluse until a young orphan stumbles upon the secrets of his past.
3. Tamir (The Dictator) – North Africa
In Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical comedy, he plays the dictator of a North African country that is not completely unlike Gaddafi-era Libya. Kingsley assumes the role of his villainous Uncle Tamir, who has his sights on ruling the nation himself.
4. The Mandarin (Iron Man 3) – Parts Unknown/South London
As the central villain of Iron Man 3, the Mandarin is a cipher of a man. His clothes cast him as an eccentric Eastern villain in the mold of Fu Manchu while his sonorous voice would suggest a Southern Baptist Minister. As it would turn out (spoiler alert), The Mandarin is merely a creation of drunken actor Trevor Slattery, a man whose King Lear was once the toast of Croydon.
5. Massoud Amir Behrani (The House of Sand and Fog) – Iran
In one of this most powerful performance, Kingsley plays an exiled Persian Colonel, reduced to working a series of menial jobs in America to keep up the appearance of his family’s wealth. He starred alongside actress Shoreh Agadashloo, herself an exile from the Iranian Revolution. Both actors were Oscar-nominated for their performances in this film.
6. Vice President Gary Nance (Dave) – The United States of America
If you run down Kingsley’s film credits since Gandhi in 1982, you’ll find he’s actually played more Americans than Brits on the big screen. His turn as the slimy VP in this ‘Prince and the Pauper’ update wasn’t his most memorable part, but playing an American politician was certainly another feather in his impressive actor’s cap.
7. Itzhak Stern (Schindler’s List) – Poland
Itzhak Stern was a Polish Jew who served an accountant at Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory in Krakow during the Holocaust. In the film, as in real life, he is credited with typing the list of Jews saved they from internment at concentration camps. While Liam Neeson’s Schindler was the central figure of the picture, Kingsley’s quiet performance provided its moral compass and defiant heart.
8. Dr Miranda (Death and the Maiden) – South America
In an unnamed South American country (likely Chile), Dr Miranda has been invited for dinner at the home of Paulina and Gerardo Escobar. Wife Paulina (Sigourney Weaver) becomes convinced their house guest was the man responsible for her torture during the dark days of a previous, fascist regime. To exact a confession, she ties him up and forces her husband to conduct a ‘trial’ in their own living room.
Ender’s Game is now available to rent at blinkbox