Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ben Kingsley (December 31, 1943)

The actor Ben Kinglsey has a very mixed background, which has allowed him to take on roles with a huge variety of ethnic identities, including Gandhi, an Iranian immigrant to LA (in "House of Sand and Fog") and Otto Frank, father of Ann Frank.

 He just did it again, playing Georges Méliès
the film maker in the new film “Hugo” (image at right). I loved "Hugo," and I think he’s an amazing actor.

Of his life and ethnic identity, Kingsley said:
“I think one in four of the students at my school was Jewish. Every single one of my friends was Jewish. My mother was half-Jewish, so I felt a part of exotic, cosmopolitan Manchester.” 
He described his parents:
“'My mother was basically an abandoned child. She wasn't brought up by her own mother, who was, to put it mildly, extremely difficult. If we were trying to be really kind we would call her "a character". Murderous. Terrifying. So my mum had no role model in terms of maternal instinct and intuition.' “His grandmother was an East End rag trader who fell pregnant by a Jewish immigrant. When he ran away back to Russia she became virulently anti-Semitic. Kingsley once said that when he portrayed 'great heroic Jews and heroic dark people' such as Simon Wiesenthal and Gandhi he was 'sticking two fingers up' at her. So it must have been difficult for this fearsome matriarch when her daughter married a young man of Indian descent. 
 “Rahimtulla Bhanji, Kingsley's father, was a Gujarati like Gandhi, but was brought up in Kenya, the son of a spice trader. He came to England to study medicine before going on to work as a GP in Yorkshire, where his second son, Krishna Pandit Bhanji, the future Ben Kingsley, was born.” -- quotes from "The dark family secret that drove Ben Kingsley to success"

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