Celebrities

Ben Kingsleys ‘vacuum’ of childhood healed by Queens recognition — unearthed interview

Ben Kingsley talks Jungle Book

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Sir Ben Kingsley stars in Iron Man 3 on BBC One this evening. The film pits Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man, up against a malevolent enemy whose limits reach no bound. After Mandarin — the enemy played by Sir Ben — reduces Tony’s personal world to rubble, he embarks on a quest to avenge those responsible.

With the odds stacked against him, Tony is forced to rely on his ingenuity and instincts to protest his nearest and dearest.

On his journey, Tony finally answers the question that has haunted him for years, does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

Sir Ben’s film career has seen him collect a number of accolades, including two Golden Globes, a Grammy, and an Academy Award.

Born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji, he is the son of an English mother and Gujarati father with roots in Jamnagar, India.

His success, he said in a 2013 interview, was inspired by the “vacuum” of a loveless upbringing.

Speaking to the Daily Express, he said: “I had always been the song-and-dance man of the family.

“I remember my father referring to me as ‘Our little Danny Kaye’ when I was about seven.

“That was the only remotely positive comment I remember from them.

“They never praised me or acknowledged a gram of talent.

“Their way was to mock, ‘When are you going to finish with this acting lark?’ That sort of thing.”

The Queen, he explained, helped heal the scars of his upbringing when she awarded him a knighthood in 2002 for services to the British film industry.

He said: “Any kind of embrace was totally absent from my life.

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“So to be embraced by Her Majesty, I felt like stopping people in the street, saying ‘My mum loves me, you know’.

“Because that’s what it felt like, to me. The filling of a vacuum in the universe.”

Speaking separately to the BBC at the time, he said: “I told the Queen that winning an Oscar pales into insignificance — this is insurmountable.

“I’ve been nominated for an Academy Award but I will be sitting there, in Los Angeles, thinking I’m a knight bachelor.”

He added: “I feel that I am a storyteller and to receive a knighthood is really recognition of that.”

He heartbreakingly admitted that, rather than being proud, his mother had been “very jealous” of his immense success.

Sir Ben, married four times, has four children and is hugely proud of each of them.

He told the Express: “In contrast to my parents their ribs are in danger of being crushed.”

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Sir Ben has largely cut ties from his past, having changed his name in the Sixties.

On the impact of adopting an English-sounding name, he told the Radio Times in 2020: “As soon as I changed my name, I got the jobs.

“I had one audition as Krishna Bhanji and they said, ‘Beautiful audition, but we don’t quite know how to place you in our forthcoming season.’

“I changed my name, crossed the road, and they said, ‘When can you start?’”

Asked if he still considers himself as Krishna, he said: “I don’t think I think [that] of myself.

“When I was on stage, I thought of myself as a landscape painter.

“Now that I’m blessed with a film career, I see myself as a portrait artist, and for many, many years I have signed my portraits ‘Ben Kingsley’ — that’s who I am.”

Iron Man 3 airs on BBC One at 10:40pm on Friday.

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