Ben Kingsley recalls an early cinema favorite

Posted by · 5:36 pm · December 14th, 2011

Earlier this morning I had a nice sit-down with “Hugo” star Ben Kingsley. Sir Ben Kingsley, I beg your pardon. It was a nice back and forth about working with Martin Scorsese, the dynamics of acting with a child actor, being sparked creatively by the set design of the film and more. I’ll try to have that for you tomorrow or Friday, but for now, a nugget regarding Kingsley’s cinematic awakening.

“Hugo,” of course, is Scorsese’s ode to the art form, ultimately a bit of a history lesson on its earliest beginnings and a study in passion through the prism of film preservation. Kingsley recalled seeing a great many films as a school boy and admits his knowledge of film history is all the more nourished for having collaborated with Scorsese on two occasions, now, last year’s (criminally underrated) “Shutter Island” being the first.

I asked him if he could recall anything that really jumped out from those formative years where a passion for the cinema was concerned.

Here’s what he had to say:

“I wouldn’t say I was a cinephile. Nothing can compare with Marty, because he is the king, really, but I do love watching great classics. I really do. And I appreciate the journey of the cinema. As a schoolboy, we had a film society at school. It was a very good school and we had a film society and I was a member of it and we screened Eisenstein films, Fritz Lang films. You know that film ‘Freaks?’ I even saw that as a schoolboy, and it was ancient film then. It was shown to us as an ancient film. So I do have an appreciation of early film.”

“‘Ivan the Terrible.’ The music in that-who wrote that? Was it Prokofiev? The great Russian composers used to score Eisenstein”s films. Prokofiev and Shostakovich were involved in movies and I think in ‘Ivan the Terrible’ there is a lot of choral music, church music, sacred music and massive orchestral movements underneath images. And then I think it”s when the whole of Moscow comes to ask him to come back from exile, those are all people, and they go on and on and on forever.”

Check back for the full interview later this week.

“Hugo” is currently in theaters nationwide.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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