This year, Sir Ben Kingsley celebrates a landmark birthday. In December, the British thespian is 70 and in a year when Radio Times is also marking a special anniversary – 90 years on newsstands – we asked Sir Ben whether he’d become reflective. Unlike Radio Times, it seems Sir Ben won’t be looking back over his achievements.
“As you probably gathered already, I’m very much in my future,” he says. “I’m non-reflective. I never look back or lean back. It’s always the next challenge, the next thing… totally.”
The current thing is Ender’s Game, an adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1985 science fiction novel, in which he plays Mazer Rackham, a war hero with Maori markings tattooed on his face. Kingsley insists Ender’s Game isn’t your typical science-fiction fare.
Comparing the film to Shakespeare, he says, “The context is science fiction just as the context of Hamlet was Denmark and Romeo and Juliet, Padua. This is the future and it’s a science fiction context but the struggle for a young man’s soul from adolescence to young adulthood is classic.”
As for the next thing, Sir Ben won’t be drawn. When questioned about his reported involvement in the follow-up to Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ, he’s tight-lipped. “I’m not aware of this,” he says. “What are your sources? Am I playing Mary? Sorry. News to me.”
Another actor with a bright future is his co-star Asa Butterfield, who plays the eponymous Ender in the film and has previously starred in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and acclaimed concentration camp drama, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. About the London-based, 16-year-old talent, Sir Ben says, “He shouldered [the responsibility of taking the lead role in these films] with great dignity, curiosity, youth, vigour. He has remained – and I think will remain – Asa, and that’s really lovely to see. He is not going to be distorted.”
Ender’s Game is released in cinemas today, Friday 25 October