You'll Never See Him Coming: Sir Ben Kingsley Talks Playing The Mandarin In Iron Man 3

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-05-01 19:19:30discussion comments
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Sir Ben Kingsley The Mandarin

And an interesting aspect to this character is that you never see The Mandarin directly communicating with another character, itís all through a camera and a monitor. How does that affect your approach?

Certain characters, you realize live in a bubble and the thrill is, ďHow do I keep this bubble hermetically sealed? How is this bubble, how cannot it be punctured,Ē and Iím fascinated by documentary footage and historical footage and I didnít necessarily dive into them for this role, but Iím always watching them. Iím always looking for certain gestures and mannerisms and right back into speeches made in the early Ď30s, you see the man who is addressing this crowd in Munich or Berlin or wherever it took place, is totally convinced in his rightness, totally convinced of his place in destiny and that is a bubble that is unpierceable and he is, although he is, in the classic case, he so much says that he is a man of the people, completely removed. ďI am here on the platform. Hereís my microphone. Youíre down there.Ē

Marvel does have this thing about secrecy, and when you first came aboard with this project, they didnít tell anyone that you were The Mandarin. They kept that kind of secret, and have worked hard to keep everything hidden until the big screen debut. Iím just curious about your opinion of that philosophy. How do you feel about that and how itís affected you these past few months working with Marvel?

I remember working on a great production with The Royal Shakespeare Company and the director, it was Peter Brook, who is a great, great, great theater director, said, ďAnd remember, when you are telling the story, what you should say to yourselves and enjoy is, we have secrets,Ē and I thought, thatís the most thrilling thing Iíve ever heard in the rehearsal room and I still thrill to the idea of having a secret that you eventually share with the audience. Yeah, I love it.

You mentioned that Shane Black approached you about this, but how familiar were you with his work going into the project?

With Shane Black himself, I wasnít very well acquainted, Iím afraid.

Well, he directed his first film back in 2005, but before that, he was a writer for a long time. As an actor, did you see his particular background come out while he was working as a director?

Well, it possibly could, but I mean, his great gift to us as actors on the set was to give us a wonderful arena in which to work, beautiful, and once weíre in that arena, he has, in his manner, a way of saying to the actor, ďIt is your role. Iím now letting go. Iíve given it to you and Iím going to film you.Ē Itís a very brave and confident, inspiring process and a very generous one. There are lesser directors and writer/directors who you feel are auditioning you all of the time and theyíre sort of leaning back and you never quite please them. They think thatís stimulating and gets good work out of you. It doesnít.

Itís just a high pressure situation.

Yeah, itís inhibiting, but what is not inhibiting and what allows the actor to take leaps of daring, is the director who says, ďItís yours.Ē
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