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Interview With Ben Kingsley

Aired April 23, 2010 - 00:00:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As an actor, Ben Kingsley defines versatility.


ANDERSON: Whether he's playing a pot-smoking therapist, the leader of a nation or a possessed teacher, he does it with conviction and skill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being younger than you doesn't make me a child.

BEN KINGSLEY, ACTOR: And it wasn't a one shot encounter.


ANDERSON: Born to an Indian father and English mother, Kingsley first hit the public eye with his remarkable portrayal of Gandhi in the 1982 film. The performance earned him an Academy Award and quickly made him a household name. Since then, he's starred in a string of successes, from "Schindler's List" to "Sexy Beast."


KINGSLEY: And because I've been (INAUDIBLE).

Why should I?



ANDERSON: And this year, he became the first Oscar winner to act in Bollywood.


ANDERSON: In his latest incarnation, he's working with the campaign to impose a so-called Robin Hood tax on financial institutions.

The man who's well and truly done it all, Ben Kingsley is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: In his latest role, Sir Ben Kingsley stars as a banker who gets mugged for his small change by a gang of Robin Hoodies. The short film, which runs under two minutes, is the work of the acclaimed British director, Richard Curtis.

In an earlier interview with Sir Ben, I asked him why he chose to get involved in this Robin Hood campaign -- tax campaign.

This is what he told me.


KINGSLEY: I don't like campaigns that press the guilt button. I don't like campaigns that somehow try to make us feel shocked about a -- a lifestyle in the West that we were born into and we are encouraged to subscribe to day after day, in advertising, in style magazines, in drama, on -- everywhere we look in the media. We are encouraged to subscribe to a certain way of life. It keeps the wheels turning. It's who we are.

So anyone who -- who tries to make us feel guilty about who we are, as far as I'm concerned, is completely wasting their time, because it's not our fault. That's how we live. It's who we are.

But Richard Curtis wrote a script and he's so witty, so unblaming and -- and so unvindictive and makes common sense. That's the door that I think audiences will walk through. They will not walk through a guilt door.

ANDERSON: Sir Ben, there's been lots of support for this campaign.

What's the reaction been from the politicians?

KINGSLEY: It's been global in that -- in that America is -- is coming on board, France is coming on board, Germany is coming on board. They lead Europe. Japan is coming on board. And -- and they're -- they're the -- they're some of the major players in these transactions. And it is the transactions that are going to be taxed. It will not be handed down to the customer.

It's not -- it won't -- we, the customers at banks or high street banks, we don't pay this tax. We will not incur the cost. It's transactions from these companies. And their reaction is good.

ANDERSON: We've had lots and lots of questions in from viewers.

Brad Lumley has written and he says he's always admired you for your work and what you do.

He asks: "What do you hope the impact of this Robin Hood tax will be?"

KINGSLEY: I think it -- if it's well publicized, if it's not the best kept secret in the city and in the world, I think it's a tremendously important gesture. I think people who feel ignored, disenfranchised and impoverished are rightfully angry. And I think this is a very surgically accurate tax because it will go to those people who are in need. It will be absorbed into their economy. It will help our deficit. And I -- I think -- I think an economically more balanced world, however we achieve it, is a more stable world. We can't have -- and it's not our fault, I'll repeat this over and over again -- but we can't have an affluent set of people at one part of the world and then starving at the other. It -- it - - it, for me, it just smells of terrible discontent and violence sooner or later.

ANDERSON: Magda has written in. She says: "Which role has had the biggest impact on your life?"

KINGSLEY: The biggest im -- my -- my career changing role would -- would have been playing the great Mahatma Gandhi, who would -- definitely in Richard Curtis' film, have mugged me and cut...


KINGSLEY: -- and torn a rupee note in half, saying I will put this to good use.

It was the golden gate water (ph) in my career, but he was the most beautiful man to portray. And probably it will take me all my life to unravel just how wonderful the guy I was playing was.

ANDERSON: Ricky says: "You've played yourself in a "Sopranos" episode. How was the experience and do you still have to act?"

KINGSLEY: Well, you do have to act. I think it was, for me, a great opportunity to self-satirize, you know. The -- I do -- don't worry, guys, I'm going to do it myself. I'll be that whatever you think I am.

ANDERSON: Let me get on with it.

KINGSLEY: I'll do it.

ANDERSON: Duo has written. And he says: "You were amazing in "Gandhi" and awesome in "Sexy Beast."" We were talking about that a little earlier. "It's so wonderful to have a soulful, poignant actor like you doing films. Question -- do you subscribe to any particular acting method?"

KINGSLEY: That's a -- that's a -- the question -- the question (INAUDIBLE) generous. I didn't go to drama school, so I don't subscribe to a particular method. But if -- if -- if you put a gun to my head and said, come on, Ben, you can do better than that, I would say that provided I've completely immersed myself in my dialogue and my text and my lines and my obligation, then I entirely give myself over to the other actor.

When it was working with Penelope Cruz on "Elegy," the root -- she made my performance. And hopefully I made hers, because what we do is we massively empathize with the other. And, as far as I'm concerned, actually, it's empathy that makes the world go around anyway.

ANDERSON: Holly Hamilton asks: "What are the biggest challenges that you face while making a movie? And how does being a star affect your personal and daily life?"

KINGSLEY: Holly, I think that the -- the biggest challenge, whomever I'm playing, is not to judge and definitely not to decorate or sentimentalize, not to add twiddly bits.

How does it affect my personal/public life?

I get an opportunity to talk to you, to be on this program and -- and to perhaps help Richard Curtis and -- and his campaign and to be ultimately life enhancing. I hope that drama and story telling, in -- in whatever form, is life enhancing.


ANDERSON: That was fabulous.

And across the Atlantic, another star is also stepping onto the political stage. American actress Jessica Alba is teaming up with a U.S. congresswoman to help give every child in the world a basic education. Get connected with the 28-year-old star of "Dark Angel." That's Send us your questions. Let us know what you want to ask her by Monday. And don't forget to tell us where you're writing in from. We love that.