New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley last Thursday, May 23, following a screening of the first episode of the new Epix series, Perpetual Grace, LTD. The event was moderated by NYFA admissions specialist Chris Devane.
Kingsley began his career by studying theatre in Manchester, England and eventually acted professionally in the West End in London and then on Broadway in New York. After establishing himself on the stage, Kingsley began working as an actor in television and film in Hollywood, quickly drawing acclaim for his work. In 1983, he won the Academy Award for Lead Actor for his work in Gandhi.
Other notable film roles include Schindler’s List, House of Sand and Fog, Hugo, Iron Man 3, Ender’s Game, Night at the Museum, and The Jungle Book. In 2002, Kingsley was named a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the British film industry.
Moderator Chris Devane began the Q&A by asking what inspired Kingsley to become a professional actor. “My absolute desire was to be seen and heard,” answered Kingsley, adding, “impersonation gave a great comfort in that I could—for a fleeting moment—acquire an identity and a voice … and entertain and connect with people.”
“Eventually,” he continued, “it was clear to me that I could, in fact, turn what one could call … an urge … into a craft … Without the urge to connect, one isn’t really an artist.”
One student in the audience asked what Kingsley has learned from his many years as an actor. “When one was younger, one did an awful lot of acting and, as one matures in the craft, paradoxically, you do less and less and less and less acting … and, hopefully, you embark on a process of being.”
Kingsley was asked by another student how he is able to switch from one role to the next so quickly. Kingsley replied that when he was acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was playing multiple roles each week. He elaborated, “As a matter of survival, you [learn], you [have] to get off that horse and get on another one and you know the horses are very different; it simply is practice, but, unless you have that muscle that’s practiced in you that can switch from one role to another, it’s going to be very difficult.”
Kingsley added, “I have learned, onstage, through my work in the great rehearsal room … after each take … I let go … I’m constantly letting go … I do not stay in character between takes and I do not stay in character when I go home.”
New York Film Academy thanks Sir Ben Kingsley for sharing his insights about the art and craft of acting as well as anecdotes from his renowned and prolific career in film, theatre, and television.