Oscar Actors: Kingsley, Ben–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, 4 Oscar nominations, Emmy Nom, Grammy Award)

Updated July 10, 2020
Ben Kingsley Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: Yes; mother actress

Social Class:

Race/Ethnicity/Religion: Mother British; father Indian




Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut: Volpone, 1971; age 28

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role: Gandhi, 1982; age 39

Other Noms: 4

Other Awards: Emmy Nom

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: lead and character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1971-present

Marriage: 4; two actresses; children too


Death: NA


Sir Ben Kingsley (born Krishna Pandit Bhanji; December 31, 1943) fifty-year acting career has garnered numerous awards and nominations, including a Grammy Award, 2 Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA Award, and Oscar Award from four nominations.

Kingsley is best known for his starring role as Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi, for which he subsequently won the Best Actor Oscar at the 55th Academy Awards. He also appeared in Schindler’s List (1993), Twelfth Night (1996), Sexy Beast (2000), House of Sand and Fog (2003), Thunderbirds (2004), Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Shutter Island (2010), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), Hugo (2011), The Dictator (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013) and Ender’s Game (2013). He has also voiced Archibald Snatcher in The Boxtrolls (2014), and Bagheera in the live action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book (2016).

Kingsley was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2002 for services to the British film industry. In 2010, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2013, he received the Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment.

Kingsley was born as Krishna Pandit Bhanji on December 31, 1943 in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire, the son of actress and model Anna Lyna Mary (née Goodman) and doctor Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji.  His mother was English; she was born out of wedlock, and “was loath to speak of her background”. His father was born in Kenya and was of Gujarati Indian descent. Kingsley’s paternal grandfather was a successful spice trader who had moved from India to Zanzibar, where Kingsley’s father lived until moving to the UK at the age of 14.

Kingsley grew up in Pendlebury, Lancashire, and was educated at Manchester Grammar School, where one classmate was actor Robert Powell.

Kingsley’s maternal grandfather was believed by the family to have been of Russian-or German-Jewish descent, while his maternal grandmother was English and worked in the garment district of London’s East End. Kingsley stated in 1994, “I’m not Jewish, and though there might be some Russian-Jewish heritage way back on my mother’s side, the thread is so fine there’s no real evidence.”

Kingsley studied at De La Salle College in Salford, which later became home to the Ben Kingsley Theatre. While at college he became involved in amateur dramatics in Manchester, making his professional stage debut on graduation, aged 23. In 1967, he made his London West End theatre debut at the Aldwych Theatre. Later, he was spotted by music producer and manager Dick James, who offered to mould Kingsley into a pop star, but Kingsley chose to join the Royal Shakespeare Company after an audition before Trevor Nunn.

Devoting himself to stage work for the next 15 years, he made his Broadway debut in 1971 with the RSC. Kingsley played Mosca in Peter Hall’s 1977 production of Ben Jonson’s Volpone for the Royal National Theatre, and in Peter Brook’s acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At about this time, he changed his name to Ben Kingsley, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career.[18][19] He also starred in the role of Willy Loman in a 1982 Sydney production of Death of a Salesman opposite Mel Gibson.

Kingsley made the transition to film with his first role coming in Fear Is the Key, released in 1972. He starred in bit roles in both film and television, including a role as Ron Jenkins on the soap opera Coronation Street from 1966 to 1967 and regular appearances as a defense counsel in the long-running British legal program Crown Court.

In 1975, he starred as Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the BBCs historical drama The Love School and appeared in the TV miniseries Dickens of London the following year. He found fame as Mohandas Gandhi in the Oscar-winning Gandhi in 1982, which was a critical and financial success, and Kingsley won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

His credits included the films Turtle Diary, Maurice, Pascali’s Island, Without a Clue (as Dr. Watson alongside Michael Caine’s Sherlock Holmes), Suspect Zero, Bugsy (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), Sneakers, Dave, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Schindler’s List, Silas Marner, Death and the Maiden, Sexy Beast, for which he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and House of Sand and Fog, which led to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He won a Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2001.

In 1997, he provided a voice in the video game Ceremony of Innocence. In 1998, he was the head of the jury at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.

In July 2006, he received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the made-for-TV film Mrs. Harris, in which he played famed cardiologist Herman Tarnower, who was murdered by his jilted lover, Jean Harris. Later that year, Kingsley appeared in an episode of The Sopranos entitled “Luxury Lounge”, playing himself. In 2007, Kingsley appeared as a Polish American mobster in the Mafia comedy You Kill Me, and a hitman in War, Inc.

In 2010, Kingsley worked voicing a character named Sabine in Lionhead Studios game Fable III and starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese. He also appeared in Scorsese’s next film, Hugo, and signed up to appear in a new feature by Neil Jordan and John Boorman entitled Broken Dream.

In 2013, he appeared as Trevor Slattery in “Iron Man 3,” and as the hero Mazer Rackham in Ender’s Game.

Kingsley’s 2014 film roles included Exodus: Gods and Kings, as Nun, a Hebrew slave, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, as Merenkahre, a simulacrum of an Egyptian pharaoh and father of Ahkmenrah (in one scene, the character discusses his Hebrew slaves).

In 2015, Kingsley played a driving instructor in the film Learning to Drive. He voiced Bagheera in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau and recorded Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi in book-on-tape format.

In 2018, Kingsley was the narrator for Amazon Prime’s documentary All or Nothing: Manchester City which followed Manchester City’s record breaking 2017–18 Premier League campaign.[26]

Kingsley has been married four times and has four children: Thomas Bhanji and artist Jasmin Bhanji, with actress Angela Morant, and Edmund Kingsley and Ferdinand Kingsley, both of whom became actors, with theatrical director Alison Sutcliffe. He divorced Alexandra Christmann in 2005, having been “deeply, deeply shocked” after pictures of her kissing another man surfaced on the internet. On September 3, 2007, Kingsley married Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender at Eynsham Hall in North Leigh, Oxfordshire.

Kingsley is a Quaker Kingsley was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2002 New Year Honors for services to the British film industry. The award was announced on 31 December 2001, which happened to be Kingsley’s 58th birthday. After receiving his award from Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, Kingsley stated; “I told the Queen that winning an Oscar pales into insignificance – this is insurmountable. I’m fascinated by the ancient, by mythology, by these islands and their tradition of story telling. I feel that I am a story teller and to receive a knighthood is really recognition of that.” His demand to be called ‘Sir’ in film and TV show credits was documented by the BBC, to some criticism.[34] Since then, Kingsley appears to have altered his stance; credits for his latest films refer to him as Ben Kingsley.

In 1984, he won Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or Nonmusical Recording for The Words of Gandhi. He was awarded the Indian civilian honor Padma Shri in 1984. In May 2010, Kingsley was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In April 2013, Kingsley was honored with the Fellowship Award at The Asian Awards in London