Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ben Kingsley on best actor in Gandhi in 1993

When he said my name, everything went into slow motion

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley

Ben Kingsley

'Peter O'Toole, Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman were my fellow nominees, so I was convinced a nomination was as far as I would get.

They were my idols, and I was the new kid on the block. When John Travolta came on stage, I turned to my then wife and said: 'Get ready to applaud Paul Newman.' When he said my name, everything went into slow motion, the way it does in the movies.

I don't know why I wore a white jacket. I just thought: 'Well, I'm not going to win so I might as well enjoy dressing up.' I got it in the sales and it was a little tight. I went to the barber the night before; I had grown a thin moustache for a stage role and had a bit of hair back then, which needed a trim. The barber suggested some tan for my face; by the time I got back to my room and looked in the mirror my face was orange.

Lifting my Oscar, with the jacket and the moustache and the orange face, I looked like a mad wine waiter, asking: 'Who ordered the chardonnay?'

We tried to have a very simple meal afterwards but people were climbing over the banquette where we were sitting, trying to get an autograph. I remember someone standing on my head while I was eating my burger. It's never how you imagine it's going to be.

After Gandhi I had gone back to London to play the West End; my fellow nominee Dustin Hoffman came to see the show.

He was one of the first people in my dressing room afterwards. He hugged me and said: 'I'm gonna beat you, you bastard.'

Gandhi won eight Oscars, with Richard Attenborough taking home two for best director and best picture. I saw him not long before he died. He had had a stroke and was in a wheelchair, and I sat for a long time, holding his hand; he just smiled and smiled. To see him as that vibrant, commanding presence on set and then unable to put two words together was a shock.

I said: 'We did it, Dickie' and he very slowly replied, 'Yes'.'

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