When I sat down to talk to Sir Ben Kingsley, the first thing I told him was that I would hold the interview until after the release of the film if we ventured too far into spoiler territory. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever said anything like that to an actor, but then again, not everyone plays a role like the one that Sir Kingsley plays in “Iron Man 3.”
In the end, I think we were careful enough that you can watch and we don’t give the game away. If you’ve seen the film, though, I think you’ll appreciate how we talked about the film and his role in it. He doesn’t dodge the questions, and he’s not playing coy. He’s just very careful about how he says things.
By far, the most controversial part of “Iron Man 3” fans is going to end up being The Mandarin and the choices that Shane Black made about how to depict the character. One of the reasons I think the movie works so well is because Shane Black and Drew Pearce took some chances in the script and they made some big choices about how to portray certain events and certain characters.
The Mandarin is a difficult character to deal with in general because his roots are some fairly rotten and loathsome racial stereotypes, and in a cinema landscape where China is a major box-office force, you can’t just throw in a vaguely racist Fu Manchu bad guy with magic rings.
Kingsley spoke about why Shane Black was the right choice for the film and he talks about how they made the character choices they made without giving them all away, but the main thing I think the interview does is it shows just how much pleasure he still seems to get from the small details of what he does for a living. I know plenty of actors who seem almost irritated when you talk to them about their craft, and I’ve interviewed plenty of people who seem like the last thing they want to do is describe how they made a choice in a role. Kingsley, on the other hand, seems to still be enjoying all of it, and that comes through loud and clear in what just may turn out to be one of the performances of the summer.
You’ll be able to judge for yourself when “Iron Man 3” opens everywhere tomorrow.