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Sir Ben Kingsley lands in trouble over title

He is listed alongside his co-stars Josh Hartnett and Morgan Freeman as "Sir Ben Kingsley" on ads for Lucky Number Slevin.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 18:22 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

Sir Ben Kingsley, better remembered for his title role in the Oscar-winning film Gandhi, has been caught in a row. It has little to do with his acting, but involves his title.

It seems to be the first of its kind in the acting fraternity. The actor of Indian origin has been accused of pulling rank by being billed on posters for a forthcoming gangster film complete with his title.

Sir Ben, who was knighted in 2001, is listed alongside his co-stars Josh Hartnett and Morgan Freeman as "Sir Ben Kingsley" on advertisements for Lucky Number Slevin.

This has created a stir in film and theatre circles. The likes of Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Michael Caine, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Sean Connery have always been billed without their honorific.

Sir Roger Moore said during an interview that he would not dream of using his title in film publicity and preferred to be called "Rog" on set. "I like a fun, friendly and informal atmosphere," he said. "I think insisting on being called 'Sir Roger' . . . is a load of pretentious b******s. As for film posters and opening titles, I don't see the point. Would it really add anything to have one's title included? Would more people go to see a film just because it's Sir Roger Moore and not just Roger Moore? I don't think so. I think it's the actor people want to see, not the knight."

Charles Mosley, the editor-in-chief of Debrett's People of Today, said that he thought Sir Ben was "putting on dog" by using his title. "He's throwing his weight around. I never saw a playbill or film poster with 'Lord Olivier' on it - someone who was higher in rank than a knight," he said.

Even Sir Cliff Richard has never used his title. His agent said, "He prefers to work just as 'Cliff Richard' - though it has to be said that event organisers don't always take note of this and the 'Sir' and the 'OBE' are sometimes added regardless." Reportedly Sir Michael Gambon reportedly threatened to thump anyone who called him "Sir Michael" during the filming of Angels in America.

And Sir Michael Caine has said that he does not use his title for films. "The only thing I do that's a little bit snobby is I refuse to open any mail that doesn't say 'Sir Michael' on it. I just feel that if they don't put 'Sir' on the envelope, they don't know anything about me, so why should I open the letter?" he said.

Dame Maggie Smith's agent also said that the actress did not use her title professionally.

During a press conference for Thunderbirds, Sir Ben chastised a German reporter who called him "Mr Kingsley". "It's Sir Ben," he said. "I've not been a mister for two years . . . Perhaps (the title) is an invitation by the realm and the Prime Minister to say, 'He now plays for England, so perhaps you should listen to him a little more diligently'. "

On a separate occasion, Sir Ben said that he had changed his name on his passport and all documentation. "There is no Mr Ben Kingsley any more. Being a Sir brings with it responsibility. I think everyone should behave like a knight."

Sir Ben was billed with his title in The Triumph of Love (2001).

First Published: Feb 18, 2006 18:22 IST