Q&A Sir Ben Kingsley


The Hollywood Reporter: What has brought you to MEIFF this year?

Ben Kingsley: The magnet was the screening, the first official premiere of "Ghandi" dubbed into Arabic, and 25 years after it was made, it's about time it was brought to this territory. That's the magnet that brought me here with my production company SBK Pictures, and already we're talking quite seriously about co-productions here. We have four important films on our slate that they're already interested in. So -- those two things bring me here and I'm very glad to be here.

THR: What have been your impressions of MEIFF and Abu Dhabi?

Kingsley: I wish I could see it [Abu Dhabi] more! The architecture of the Emirates Palace is extraordinary. It's always a flying visit, of course, but if things work out I will be spending longer here in serious creative meetings, bringing everybody here to discuss everything. It is a beautiful and very exciting place, though I have yet to enter into the mainstream of the day with the screenings and so on. There seems to be a reason behind it [the festival] -- joining in co-productions and getting things made and produced from here -- which is attracting filmmakers. The British industry should be here; they need a massive injection of funds.

THR: Have you met the person that dubbed your character in the Arabic "Ghandi?" What did you think of the dubbed version?

Kingsley: I really like the dubbed version, it was exquisitely done; really brilliant actors and so many different voices. I think it was over 130 actors working on the film and I was particularly pleased with the performance by the actress who voiced my wife in the film, an extraordinary piece of dubbing and very enjoyable to watch it.

THR: How do you rate the emerging film industry here?

Kingsley: Well, it seems to have its priorities right; it doesn't seem to be cluttered by any preconceptions or cynicism. I think in a system that's been around for as long as Hollywood, you are bound to have people saying "oh that's not possible" because we've already tried it. But here, because they don't know -- or because they're not limited by past experience -- anything's possible, which is very exciting.

THR: You were at the press conference when it was announced that Imagenation, the film financing and development arm of Abu Dhabi Media Group, is in partnership with National Geographic to make and finance feature films. Do you have a personal interest in this project?

Kingsley: National Geographic, coincidentally, approached our company, before we arrived here, on one of our projects. So it's a wonderful piece of serendipity that they are here and we can continue the conversation. They knew of one of our projects and they called us about it and they would like to work on it with us.

THR: Would you consider filming here?

Kingsley: Yes I would, we could have very creative meetings here. Yes, if it's relevant. There's nothing on our slate right now that we could set here right now, but of course sets can be built can anywhere and although a lot of work is done in Morocco – interiors and exteriors – we could shift a lot of our filmmaking here as well. It depends on tax, concessions, the financial structures, but the landscape could be quite extraordinary to film here.

THR: Do you see yourself eventually acting less and concentrating more on production?

Kingsley: Most of the projects that we are championing now and are slated to do, very much involve me as an actor pretty centrally, and I'm not ready to divorce the two. I just love the process too much so no, I can't see that split.

Production is very new to me; I have only been producing for about two years. I am co-producer on "You Kill Me," the film I did with Tea Leoni, and I am co-producer on "The Wackness." I didn't bring any financing to it, I just… I attracted funds to it by being in it. I'm sorry, there's no modest way of saying that! And that's just how it happened, which was great. But to actually bring creative group of people together, for me, I find that very appealing as my early days were in the theatre, which is intensely collaborative, and the film set is totally collaborative. To bring the composer, the score, the set designer, the costume designer, the makeup artist, director, director of photography and the scriptwriter, to bring them all together, and have them working is in itself a beautiful experience, but then to know that you're making a film that people will enjoy in 50 years time is also thrilling.