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Friday, August 28, 2015

Ben Kingsley Shakespeare Muse of Fire Interview


I just watched a great interview with Ben Kingsley

The documentary is part of the fantastic Shakespeare documentary, Muse of Fire -- which you can view on demand -- here.


I love these interviews because it is always interesting to hear artists discuss their craft, but also because these interviews focus on Shakespeare.

And Ben Kingsley has some great things to say about Shakespeare.

If you are an actor, I can think of no better interview to inspire and motivate you. He is one of the greatest actors in the world, and he has a lot to say about how to become an actor, and how to live an actor’s life.

as Othello
RSC 1985

I have always admired his work and I have seen him in interviews before, but this one is the very best — and it is the most personal for him.

He discusses how, when he was a teenager, he saw Ian Holm as Richard III at Stratford-upon-Avon — and it made him want to be an actor.

Ian Holm as Richard III
RSC 1964

I don’t want to ruin the story, but the experience of watching Ian Holm made the teenaged Ben Kingsley faint!

I just loved his story about the film that first inspired him to be an actor — when he was only 4 years old!

It’s a very touching story, and you can really see the 4-year-old boy inside of him, as he speaks in this interview.

Ben Kingsley in Merry Wives of Windsor
BBC 1982

It really seems like his biggest challenges to become an actor were between the ages of 4 and 19. As soon as he decided to go and make himself an actor, one door after another opened for him, and he was given the nod over and over again by some of the greatest figures of the stage — like Peter Brook.

And it is wonderful to see how humble and genuinely thankful he is to all those mentors and people who shaped him as an actor and helped move him towards a full-blown career as an actor.

Yet, the moment of truth, the moment that made him decide once and for all to become an actor was because of Shakespeare.

And he has done so much Shakespeare — by his count, he has been in 17 of the plays.

with Judi Dench in Cymbeline
RSC 1980

He also carries Shakespeare into just about every role he plays — like Don Logan in the film Sexy Beast — which he equates with Iago.

Yet, he would really cry when he was faced with a new Shakespeare role. Shakespeare did not come easy for him, and it seems that all of his success with the Bard’s plays were the result of very hard and long work.

It was 13 years of primarily stage work, and primarily Shakespeare, before his big break-out role as Gandhi.

He speaks of having to build a mental stamina through stage work, and with Shakespeare, and he never finds a sense of complacency with any role of his. Every role is hard work.

Peter Brooks' Midsummer Night's Dream
RSC 1970

Perhaps the greatest part of this interview, and there are many great moments, is what he has to say about his performance as Hamlet, in 1975. (It was this performance which caught the eye of Richard Attenborough, who would then choose him for the role of Gandhi.)

He describes how terrified he was to play Hamlet, how it was like the highest mountain an actor can attempt.

And then he found that what Shakespeare had written was perfectly suited to every actor who fears climbing this mountain — Hamlet himself is terrified of the mountain he must climb within the story of the play.

The fear that Ben Kingsley felt in playing Hamlet was the fear that Hamlet himself feels. 

I can not think of a better insight for playing Hamlet than this.



Hamlet
RSC 1976

This also reminds me of what I read about his performance in 1975. He had tried to make Hamlet as funny as possible, and he also tried to really get a connection with the audience. If there was no connection, then the whole production was not a success.

He speaks about this again here in this interview, and how hard he works to make the audience feel what Hamlet feels. You must connect — it is a win or lose game, and the audience knows when you have not connected with them.

There is a great story he tells about how he met one person who had watched his Hamlet the night before, and how much it moved her. I don’t want to ruin the story, you just have to hear him tell the story himself. It is very moving.

I love how, as an actor, he started out acting in front of 7 year old children — who would walk away if they were bored, or would talk louder than the actors.

Perhaps that is the greatest lesson of all, how to entertain the impatient and loud child’s mind within us all, and keep us distracted long enough to tell a story.

I hope you take the time to watch and listen to what he has to say in this wonderful interview. He has much to say, not just about Shakespeare, and it is full of wisdom.

Cheers,


David B. Schajer

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