Ben Kingsley is an Academy Award winner and one of the most recognizable faces in movies. He is an actor, and a very good one but he prefers to be called something else.
“I’m sure I am a storyteller,” he says. “I’m sure that is the right place for my DNA to be.”
Whether he is playing Darwan in this weekend’s Learning to Drive or Mohandas Gandhi, Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List or Sexy Beasts’ Don Logan, he strives to tell stories that get under the audience’s skin.
“Something happened to me and it stayed with me forever,” he says. “I had the privilege of playing Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company and I was walking and it was always in my head. It is a very all-consuming role.
“I was in Snitterfield, an open field just outside Stratford Upon Avon. A lovely young woman was on the opposite side of the field and seemed to be walking towards me, so I decided to tack to my right to avoid her feeling that I was intruding on her space. She tacked to her left. In other words, she mirrored me. Then I went the other way and she mirrored me. She was determined to meet me in the middle of this field. Then face-to-face, she said, ‘I saw Hamlet last night. How did you know about me?’
Something (I did) must have gone right in there (he points to his heart), straight through the sternum and said, ‘I know.’ That’s the connection.”
In his new film Kingsley makes a connection with co-star Patricia Clarkson. She plays Wendy, a divorcee who hires Darwan to teach her how to drive so she can travel to upstate New York to visit her daughter. As she learns to navigate Manhattan’s mean streets, they form a bond, teaching one another about life and love.
“I think in a really beautifully fashioned play or screenplay you have a feeling that the gods look down and say, ‘I’m going to bring you two together.’ I love that idea in mythology that the gods look down and send somebody to somebody. It is only through very unfortunate, heartbreaking circumstances that she finds herself in a taxi.
Heartbroken. I am driving a heartbroken woman. And I loved in the way, as in all great stories, the little coincidences are the gods guiding and bringing people together for some purpose. Here it is not for a great romance, it is to heal.”