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Ben Kingsley on Prince of Persia

Published May 24, 2010 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Walt Disney Pictures
Prince of Persia Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of 93 credits on Sir Ben Kingsley’s IMDB page. Even subtracting the ones that are just rumors, that’s a lot of acting. By the time he played the film’s Nizam, Sir Ben had accomplished a lot. Yet the knighted Oscar winner still found a way to make Nizam fresh.

Ben Kingsley on Prince of Persia


“Well it’s my job,” Kingsley said. “One, if I can’t surprise myself, I can’t surprise my director and my fellow actors and therefore the audience. So, my quest is to surprise myself. Maybe it’s a little bit like a mountaineer always looking for a particularly dangerous mountain that maybe others have climbed before but not me. I see myself as a bit of an explorer, a bit of a hunter, and I’m always hunting for new opportunities and to keep them fresh.”

You may jump to the conclusion that Nizam is the film’s villain. If he’s an A-list acclaimed actor and he’s not the Prince of Persia, he must be the bad guy, right? “Well, I believe that there’s good and bad in all of us and I believe that there is a light side and a dark side, so what I find fascinating and enjoyable is playing the balance and in the recent movies that I’ve done. What I have to do as an actor is to be unafraid of whether the audience likes me or not. I’ve got to be indifferent to that. I’ve got to tell the story. I know that there have been twists and turns in recent films I’ve done – Shutter Island, Elegy – beautiful films that I’ve done recently, and this one, of course, where I’m not afraid of whether the audience likes me or not. That’s not the point as long as they focus on the character and see his journey through the film. That, for me, is thrilling, to tell that story, that unique destiny through that film.”



By now, Kingsley is known for finding the depth in potentially simple material. He even compared Thunderbirds to Shakespeare, so Nizam deserves at least that much. “This is our secret, okay? But there is something Shakespearean about Nizam. You know, I did 15 years in classical theater before I did Gandhi and I did a lot of Shakespeare and the brilliant thing about his characters is that there is a man and there are layers and layers and layers of magic stuff behind that man. Behind the costume, which is magnificent, and the look, is a man eaten up by such destructive forces presented as the most polite and helpful man in the world. So, yes, theater I tapped into and even Shakespeare for this film.”

It’s not just the world of fiction either. History had plenty of examples of Nizams for Kingsley’s research. “Fortunately, I don’t know anyone like Nizam. But I know there is such a thing as sibling rivalry, that brothers can be extremely jealous of other brothers. Fortunately, my children do not suffer from that. There are historical precedents where you do see people who have bizarre ambitions, dangerous ambitions to do something with the world, and when they get the equipment to do that with, the means to do that, they use it and it’s disastrous. The worst person in the world to get a hold of that dagger is Nizam. There are historical figures who’ve got hold of some technology and they have unleashed their mad fantasies, and I’m talking quite recent history, and it’s been horrific. So, I look at history and I look at the realities of history and what it teaches us and I do see Nizams in recent history.”

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens to theaters on May 28th.

For the photos, trailers, posters and more movie info, go the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Walt Disney Pictures
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