Ben Kingsley Biography

Ben Kingsley is a celebrated British actor with a career spanning over four decades. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about his life.

Quick Facts

Birthday: December 31, 1943

Nationality: British

Famous: Actors British Men

Age: 76 Years, 76 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Capricorn

Also Known As: Krishna Pandit Bhanji

Born in: Snainton

Famous as: Actor

Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Males


Spouse/Ex-: Angela Morant (m. 1966; div. 1976) Alison Sutcliffe

father: Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji

mother: Anna Lyna Mary Goodman

children: Ferdinand Kingsley

More Facts

education: Manchester Grammar School, University of Salford, Pendleton College

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Ben Kingsley is a celebrated British actor with a career spanning over four decades. During his extensive career in films and TV, he has won multiple awards: an Oscar, two Golden Globes, Grammy, BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He is best known for his role as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the 1982 film titled ‘Gandhi’. For his role as the prolific Indian freedom fighter, he won an Oscar for Best Actor. The movie was only his second on the big screen; however, it propelled his career, drawing the attention of Hollywood’s best and brightest. Over the years, Kingsley has shown his versatility in playing just about any role to perfection. From a Nazi war criminal in ‘Operation Finale’, to his celebrated role as a Holocaust survivor in ‘Schindler’s List,’ his movies over the decades have showcased his depth as an actor and have won the hearts of critics and filmgoers around the world. Kingsley is known to adamantly refuse similar roles in fear of recycling the same roles and limits his releases to not more than one a year. He is also known to spend years preparing for a movie character of his liking, getting the details of his character just right. For his services to the British Film industry, he was made a Knight Bachelor, giving him the title of ‘Sir’.

Childhood & Early Life
  • Ben Kingsley was born on December 31, 1943 in North Riding of Yorkshire, England as Krishna Pandit Bhanji. His father, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, was a medical doctor of Indian (Gujarati) descent. His mother, Anna Lyna Mary, was an actress/model who appeared in films during the 1920s and 1930s.
  • He attended Manchester Grammar School expecting that he would go to medical school like his father and older brother. He subsequently went to Pendleton College (which later became Ben Kingsley Theatre). While there, he discovered his passion for all things related to acting, specifically theatre. In 1967, aged 23, he made his theatre debut at the Aldwych Theatre.
  • In late 1967, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and immersed himself in the world of stage acting for the next 15 years. In 1971, he made his Broadway debut playing a part in William Shakespeare's play, ‘A Midsummer's Night Dream’.
  • Upon gaining fame as a stage actor, he changed his name to ‘Ben Kingsley’ from his birth name, Krishna Bhanji, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career.
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  • Ben Kingsley made the transition from theatre to the big screen in 1972 with a role in Michael Tuchner’s ‘Fear Is the Key’; a movie based on the 1961 the novel by author Alistair MacLean.
  • Around the same time, he made several acting appearances in television as well. This includes regular appearances in the long-running British legal programme Crown Court where he played the part of a defence counsel.
  • In 1975, he starred as the distinguished British poet ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti’ in BBC’s historical drama production ‘The Love School’. This drama series had a big influence during its time and has given way to modern day series like ‘Desperate Romantics’.
  • Over the next decade, he played small roles in both TV and films. This includes an appearance in the TV miniseries ‘Dickens of London’ in 1976. It is also during this time that he prepared for his ultimate role that would eventually propel his acting career to new heights.
  • In 1982, he played the role of Mohandas Gandhi in the drama film ‘Gandhi’. His performance as the lead character ‘Gandhi’ earned him international fame and recognition. For this role, he was rewarded with awards like the Oscar Award for Best Actor, BAFTA, Golden Globes, and London Film Critics' Circle Awards, to name a few. Subsequent to the movie’s release, he was recognized as one of the finest British actors.
  • He didn’t let this success and fame get to him and was known to isolate himself for months on end to shut himself off from glaring cameras and focus on preparing for roles ahead. His success as an actor continued as he appeared in many other celebrated movies like ‘Turtle Diary,’ ‘Maurice,’ and ‘Bugsy’ – for which he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.
  • In 1993, he played the role of Holocaust survivor ‘Itzhak Stern’ in the critically acclaimed drama movie ‘Schindler's List’. His vivid performance, and life-like depiction of the character, earned him a BAFTA nomination for best supporting actor. The movie ‘Schindler's List’ went on to win seven Oscar Awards, including Best Picture.
  • During the mid-late 1990s, he acted in various box office successes, like ‘The Tale of Sweeney Todd’ where he was nominated for the Screen Actors' Guild Award. In 1998, he was also a member of 48th Berlin International Film Festival, where he was the head juror.
  • In 2000, he played the lead protagonist in the British crime film ‘Sexy Beast’. This highly acclaimed movie has a cult fan following and is watched by avid movie buffs even today. For his role as ‘Don Logan’, a recruiter for the London underworld, Kingsley received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
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  • In the following year he played Otto Frank in the hit television movie ‘Anne Frank’ released in late 2001. For his heart wrenching portrayal of Anne Frank’s father, he received the Screen Actors' Guild Award in 2002.
  • Throughout the 2000s, he made numerous appearances in movies and TV shows. In July 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy for his performance in the documentary film ‘Mrs. Harris’. His other works during this time include a guest appearance on ‘The Sopranos’, as himself; and playing a Polish-American mobster in the comedy series ‘You Kill Me’.
  • In 2010, Ben Kingsley starred in acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s thriller ‘Shutter Island’. In this feature film he is seen starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. He also starred in Scorsese's subsequent film, ‘Hugo,’ and is known to be among the favourites of this prolific director.
  • In 2013, he appeared as a villain in the American super hero film ‘Iron Man 3’. His deceptively good acting skills held the audiences in suspense about the character’s true identify till the very end.
  • Apart from acting in movies and TV, he has also lent his voice for various animation films like ‘The Jungle Book’. He also narrated Yogananda's ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ in book-on-tape format.
Major Works
  • Ben Kingsley has acted in some of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most admired feature films. This includes his outstanding role in the biographical drama film ‘Gandhi’. The movie was released in the year 1982 and was applauded by critics and movie goers alike. The actor’s accurate depiction of Gandhi has become a cornerstone of cinema. In the US it became the 12th-highest-grossing film of the year, whereas in India it was the highest grossing film ever at that time. For his role as Gandhi, Kingsley won an Oscar for Best actor for his stunning performance that still remains in the hearts of moviegoers around the world.
  • The 2000 feature film ‘Sexy Beast’ is possibly one of the actor’s more definitive roles and still draws a huge cult following. The movie depicts brutal gangster Don Logan (Kingsley) who recruits retired safe-cracker Gal (Ray Winstone) for the heist of the century. However, things quickly go badly for the duo and eventually end very violently. Kingsley’s portrayal of gangster Don Logan is destined to go down as one of the most memorable mobsters in filmdom. The movie was the inspiration for director Guy Ritchie who went on to make movies like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’.
Awards & Achievements
  • Ben Kingsley’s lifelike portrayal of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the 1982 film ‘Gandhi’, won him an Oscar Award for Best Actor.
  • In 1984 he was awarded the highest Indian civilian honour ‘The Padma Shri’, for the impact his life has had on the Indian community. The following year, he won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word for ‘The Words of Gandhi.’
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  • In May 2010, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, alongside other Hollywood actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
  • In 2002, during the New Year Honours ceremony, he was knighted as ‘Sir Ben Kingsley’ for his services to the British film industry. He later stated that according to him, “the Oscars pale in comparison to this great honour.”
  • In April 2013, he was honoured with the Fellowship Award at ‘The Asian Awards’ in London.
Personal Life
  • Ben Kingsley has been married four times and has four children. He is currently married to Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender, who he married on 3 September 2007. The couple do not have any children together. The two are known for their extensive philanthropic work especially for children in third world countries.
  • He is an extremely solitary person and likes to keep his personal life private. He rarely appears for interviews and avoids red carpet events as much as possible.
  • His demand to be called 'Sir Ben' is something well documented by the BBC, and has come under heavy criticism. The actor at one point was very particular about film credits including his title ‘Sir’. However, he has altered his stance considerably since.
  • He got his stage name ‘Kingsley’ from his grandfather's nickname "Clove King".
  • His father, Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, was a Kenyan-born physician of Indian descent from the state of Gujarat, the same state as MK Gandhi.
  • He did not heed the advice of music legends John Lennon and Ringo Starr, who told him to get into music and if he didn’t, it would be his biggest regret in life.
  • He has an Honorary Degree from the University of Hull, Scarborough Campus.
  • Five days before he was called by Richard Attenborough for the role of Gandhi, he was given a library book on Gandhi.
  • Has played the role of MK Gandhi between the ages 23 and 78, in the same movie.

Ben Kingsley Movies

1. Schindler's List (1993)

  (Biography, Drama, History)

2. Gandhi (1982)

  (Biography, History, Drama)

3. Shutter Island (2010)

  (Thriller, Mystery)

4. Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

  (Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Drama)

5. Betrayal (1983)

  (Thriller, Drama)

6. House of Sand and Fog (2003)


7. Maurice (1987)

  (Romance, Drama)

8. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

  (Drama, Biography)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1983 Best Actor in a Leading Role Gandhi (1982)
Golden Globe Awards
1983 Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Gandhi (1982)
1983 New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Male Gandhi (1982)
BAFTA Awards
1983 Best Actor Gandhi (1982)
1983 Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Gandhi (1982)
Grammy Awards
1985 Best Spoken Word Album Winner

See the events in life of Ben Kingsley in Chronological Order

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