Imagine Gandhi with Dustin Hoffman as the leader of India’s non-violent independence movement? Or The Wackness with Mary-Kate Olsen macking on Bill Murray? Both could have been reality if Ben Kingsley took the Beatles’ advice and became a singer. “John Lennon and Ringo saw a show I did and introduced me to Dick James, who was head of Northern Songs, the music publisher,” Kingsley tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I also had an offer from the Chichester Festival to join them to do classical plays, and I decided to go there for the summer, which led to the Royal Shakespeare.” Kingsley’s subsequent elevation to Britain’s finest acting troupe had a lasting affect on the actor, who cites those stage experiences as the chief influence looming over his 41-year film career.
“Shakespeare put down on the page such wonderful patterns of human behavior. They still ring true today, which is why in every major city you visit, there will always be a Shakespeare play to see,” Kingsley told Rolling Stone, saying he found similar patterns in Iron Man 3, his last role before Ender’s Game (in theaters now). “You have a great action sequence followed by a moment of absurdity, of vulnerability, of tenderness, of love, of comradeship. That hunting – that appetite for the human dance, if you like – it’s always with me in my work. Always.” And critics agree, with Peter Travers lauding his turn as the bin Laden-esque villain the Mandarin alongside fellow baddie Guy Pearce.