10 Questions for Sir Ben Kingsley

From Holocaust survivor to criminal brute, challenging roles have defined this Oscar winner's acting career. Next up: a turn as a Roman shaman in The Last Legion. Sir Ben Kingsley will now take your questions

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Portrait of Ben Kingsley.

From Holocaust survivor to criminal brute, challenging roles have defined this Oscar-winner's acting career. Next up: a turn as a Roman shaman in The Last Legion. Sir Ben Kingsley will now take your questions

Which of your roles has been the closest to the real you?Mark Koop, THREE HILLS, ALTA.
I would say recently Elegy, with Penélope Cruz, and also Turtle Diary. But my mom would say "Oh, House of Sand and Fog, that's my boy." Those roles are like walking a tightrope. I could lose my balance and topple back into me so easily.

What do you look for in a role?Catherine Raymond BELLINGHAM, WASH.
I look for the echo inside me. Maybe we're all born with our future coiled up inside us like a spring, and we just unravel this coiled spring and work it out. I'm sorry if this sounds a bit bizarre. I'm trying so hard not to be pretentious because I'm always called pompous and pretentious.

What were you thinking when you accepted a role in Bloodrayne?It's hard to imagine someone so gifted not realizing what a terrible film that would be! Shane O'Sullivan AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
I don't know whether to be upset or flattered by that question. To be honest, I have always wanted to play a vampire, with the teeth and the long black cape. Let's say that my motives were somewhat immature for doing it.

How would Gandhi play the role of Ben Kingsley?Mills Chapman, VILLANOVA, PA.
He was an astonishingly quick and witty judge of character, so I bet he could have done a very good impersonation of me.

Would you change anything about your acting career?Grant Curtiss, ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.
No. It's a bit like The Butterfly Effect, that amazing science-fiction novel, where if you go back and alter one molecule of your past, the present that you're enjoying will disintegrate.

Have you ever felt compelled to pursue any political issues?Ross Davenport, PERTH, AUSTRALIA
I'm only strong as a storyteller. I'm not strong as a politician. Hopefully, with my journeys around the world, having visited the Pakistan earthquake zone, a girls' school in Afghanistan and some refugee camps in the Palestinian areas, then I'll be stronger as an actor at choosing the right kind of material.

What comes with the title of knight? Does it mean you get a better table in restaurants?Patty Davis, PITTSBURGH, PA.
[Laughs.] They're a bit uncomfortable about success, the Brits. But when you think you're being totally ignored by England, they suddenly say 'You now belong to the nation.'" You become a bit of an ambassador. It gives me an opportunity to be taken as a true reflection of the British people and our concerns. If it gets me a better place at those tables, I want to be there.

What is the difference between what makes a good movie in the U.S. and what makes a good movie in the U.K.?Dan Rothman FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF.
It's that English eccentricity, that dry humor, that Hugh Grant is a genius at. What makes a good American movie is a certain kind of relaxed ease, a deep comfort in being American. In America, you're confident in your grandeur, your largesse and your ability to relax and flow.

Why did you change your name (from Krishna Bhanji)?Andrew Lawrence, FAIRFIELD, CONN.
It was a way of getting to my first audition. My dad [who is Indian] was completely behind it. My first name, Ben, is my dad's nickname. My second name, Kingsley, comes from my grandfather's nickname, which was King Clove. He was a spice trader. It's a bit late to change it back now.

Do people ever confuse you with Patrick Stewart?Kevin Kuder, STOW, OHIO
I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company sitting in the audience, and a girl who was maybe 11 came up to me and said, "I love you in Star Trek." And I'm sitting there thinking I'm the king of the world, and I said, "Actually, I'm Ben Kingsley." She looked completely blank and said, "Well, congratulations, you look like Patrick Stewart."

For more from Sir Ben Kingsley read the extra questions. Listen to this interview on Time.com's 10 Questions podcast. Find more interviews at time.com/10questions.

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