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Byline: John Millar

Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley has revealed the secret to playing the best baddies.

The 69-year-old actor has gone from Gandhi to ghastly in exploring the dark side in films such as Sexy Beast and Oliver Twist, in which he played Fagin.

And it even applies when he is cast as comic book baddies such as The Hood in Thunderbirds or, now, The Mandarin in Marvel's latest mega-budget action-packed romp, Iron Man 3. Ben said: "As an actor, I have to push the word 'villain' right to the back of my mind and bring forward their distorted sense of righteousness and destiny.

"Because I think classic villains like The Mandarin have to have a profound sense of right."

Mysterious Mandarin, who is seen making a series of terrifying, threatening TV broadcasts, is described by the Marvel team as Iron Man's greatest enemy.

He comes across as a deadly mix of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, a Chinese warlord and a Bin-Laden-style fanatic as he carries out a reign of fear and terror, targeting Iron Man for destruction.

Even his voice is weird, like one of the American Baptist preachers who broadcast on TV. Ben says the voice came to him one day while sitting in his hotel room.

He added: "Suddenly, it hit me.

There he isI scared myself."

That's not as unusual as it sounds because, before he brings a character to the screen, he immerses himself in painstaking research. On occasion, that has even included examining newsreel footage of Hitler's speeches.

For Schindler's List, he studied Jewish history and religion. To play Silas Marner, he learned to weave. For Gandhi, he practised yoga and had a vegetarian diet. And to play famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, he watched hundreds of feet of archive film.

More recently, when he brought the ultra-violent Don Logan to the screen in Sexy Beast and '' I don't got another Oscar nod, Ben figured a reason for the character's scary behaviour.

about being IHe said: "Don Logan was an abused child who was never healed and went on to abuse others - that was my key into him." to their of " It was Ben's performance in Sexy Beast that led the Iron Man 3 team to invite him to play The Mandarin. Inevitably, there was more research when the star joined Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Guy Pearce in the all-star line-up of Iron Man 3 - particularly as Ben is a newcomer to the Marvel universe.

He said: "The Marvel comics were not part of my younger years.

I read British ones like The Eagle and Dan Dare."

Ben also admits that when he was cast, he hadn't seen the first two movies and went through a crash course in the mythology of Iron Man.

Shane Black, the director and co-writer of Iron Man 3, sent the actor a package of the original films, plus a bundle of drawings and comics.

Ben said: "I watched the films, which were both very enjoyable. I liked how the characters were not stereotypical but layered."

He was also impressed by the screen partnership of Downey Jr and Paltrow as Iron Man and his girlfriend Pepper Potts.

think them evil.

attempt He said: "That relationship is sort of the spine of the film. It is not your usual type of film in the genre. I felt it was an intelligent approach."

bring forward sense " Born in Scarborough, Ben moved seamlessly from a lengthy stint on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Companydestiny to become an Academy Awards regular.

He has been nominated for performances in House Of Sand And Fog, Sexy Beast and Bugsy and, of course, collected the Best Actor Oscar for Gandhi.

His portrayal of the saintly Indian leader also earned him a Golden Globe, a Bafta, a pile of other awards and international acclaim.

At one point, he was quoted as saying he had told the Queen his knighthood caused the Oscar to pale into insignificance. Now, though, it seems he is equally proud of both honours. He said: "It is quite hard to separate the two. One is from your peer group and the other is from your nation, which I love deeply."

As he approaches his 70th birthday on Hogmanay, Ben shows no sign of slowing up on his film career. He is involved in a handful of new projects for the big screen and agrees that his age doesn't appear to affect the offers of roles and scripts.

He said: "Possibly it is because I have some kind of flexibility.

"I'm probably the only member of the Royal Shakespeare Company who has played Hamlet and Othello."

One of Ben's upcoming films is Ender's Game - directed by Gavin Hood - in which he stars alongside Harrison Ford.

It is an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller in which a child might turn out to be the saviour of the human race.

Although it is another special effects adventure, Ben says Ender's Game was a very different experience from Iron Man 3. He added: "I play Mazer Rackham, who is a combination of an ancient Maori warrior and a teacher who trains children how to operate drones.

"It was quite different from the challenge of The Mandarin when I was very rarely involved in green screen.

"In Gandhi, we had none. We actually had 400,000 people on the screen for the funeral.

"But with Ender's Game, which I think will be a wonderful film, there was a lot of green screen."

When Ben mentions that he and his fourth wife - Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender - have set up a film production company, Lavender Films, I suggest that they consider tackling a movie version of Macbeth.

During his stage career, Ben played the third murderer in Macbeth but never the man himself.

He said: "It started at this table, it's a good thought. Macbeth is a wonderful character but this hadn't crossed my mind - it's a fascinating idea."

Before we part, I wonder whether there might be any cash reward for me if the film ever happens.

Laughing, Ben said: "Only if you put some money in." Which ended my Hollywood dream.

Iron Man 3 is out on Thursday.


Don in screen. partnership and Paltrow as '' I don't think about them being evil. I attempt to bring forward their sense of destiny


DARK ROLE Ben as Don Logan in Sexy Beast and, below, as hitman Walken in War, Inc

GANDHI SUCCESS Ben won an Oscar for playing Indian leader and, top, as Fagin in Oliver Twist

READY FOR BATTLE Ben plays Iron Man's enemy The Mandarin in action blockbuster. Right, with Robert Downey Jr at Moscow premiere. Below, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Iron Man's girlfriend
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 21, 2013
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