Ben Kingsley Exclusive Video Interview – THE WACKNESS

     February 26, 2008

When I found out that I was going to be able to interview Sir Ben Kingsley at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I’ll admit I got kind of nervous. It’s not too often you get a one on one with an Academy Award winning actor like Sir Ben, and as someone who grew up watching his amazing work in countless films, I was just hoping that I’d ask intelligent and insightful questions. After all, it’s not like the entire world could watch it online after it was over.

Thankfully, the interview came out great and Sir Ben was willing to talk about everything – from his role as a drug using therapist in “The Wackness,” to playing a Love Guru in Mike Myers next film. Actually, besides getting Sir Ben to talk about all of his upcoming movies, the most interesting part was hearing him say how much he’s enjoying doing comedy.

Anyway, a little about “The Wackness.”

As I’ve said a few times, it was my favorite film from this years Sundance and it was written and directed by Jonathan Levine. You could say the film is a coming of age story set in New York City during the summer of 1994, but it’s so much more than that. While I could spend the next hour crafting a great synopsis, we ran a review by Kenny Fischer during Sundance and I’m including part of it before the interview. His thoughts on the film are perfect.

The Wackness is a comedy about the unusual friendship between a pot dealer (Josh Peck) and his unorthodox shrink (Ben Kingsley). Luke Shapiro, the pot dealer, has just graduated from high school. He’s not popular but he’s not a loser, either. He’s something in between. He has next to no sexual experience, next to no friends, and next to no life. The only outlet he has are his sessions with Dr. Squires, his psychiatrist. And he pays him with weed.

The film is a funny look at two significant crossroads in your life. It’s the only film I can think of that’s both a quarter-life crisis (The Graduate and Garden State) and a mid-life crisis movie (American Beauty). While Luke has some issues, most of them stem from a lack of experience in all aspects of life. He’s basically a good kid. Dr. Squires, on the other hand, is a total fuck up. He’s deeply flawed and a hypocrite, but somehow he’s lovable.

His friendship with Luke gives him a sliver of hope and offers him an opportunity to hit the reset button on his life. The relationship is mutually beneficial, as Dr. Squires has already made all the mistakes that lay ahead of Luke. He gives him some very simple and strong advice: get out there, fuck several girls, and get your heart broken. Luke takes this to heart, and pursues a girl he’s had a crush on for awhile…

…Dr. Squires’ stepdaughter.

Needless to say, this is where things become complicated and hilarious. The movie is hysterically funny, insightful, fresh, and moving. It’s also a period film. By setting the film in 1994, the film gains a sense of time and place that adds extra layers to the characters and narrative. On one hand, the film is timeless; it deals with issues that everyone will face at some time in their life. But by placing it in an era we didn’t realize had become retro, the humor and conflict gains a specificity it wouldn’t have had otherwise. There are some amazing touches. Blowing in NES cartridges. A soundtrack featuring De La Soul and Notorious B.I.G. Newly ironic jokes about Giuliani. Etc. Etc. Etc.

As I said, great review.

Anyway, here’s the interview with Sir Ben Kingsley. Due to the length, I’ve divided it up into two parts. And even though I dealt with getting extremely sick at this year’s Sundance….getting to do this interview made it all worthwhile.

Ben Kingsley – Part 1

  • Starts off talking about how happy he is to be at Sundance
  • I ask how did he come to the part and after he read the script did he immediately know he wanted to play the character
  • I ask if he’s seen the movie with an audience as people can’t believe what he does on screen. He says he wants to do a lot more comedy.
  • Love Guru talk
  • He talks about his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company
  • How did he prepare for the part of The Wackness.

Ben Kingsley – Part 2

  • Transsiberian talk
  • War Inc. talk
  • Elegy talk
  • Man on the Run talk
  • Shutter Island talk – new Scorsese movie
  • More Love Guru talk.
  • He says he’s happy to be playing men in relationships

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