Actor Ben Kingsley Says He Refused to Get ‘Contaminated’ by Adolf Eichmann’s Spirit in Preparation for New Film Role
British actor Sir Ben Kingsley talked on Tuesday night about getting into character for his new film role in which he stars as Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.
The actor was in conversation at the 92nd Street Y in New York City this week discussing “Operation Finale,” about the Mossad’s 1960 hunt for and successful capture of Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Kingsley — on stage with co-star Joe Alwyn and director Chris Weitz — told moderator Thane Rosenbaum that he made sure to separate himself from the character he was playing on screen.
“I decided that it would not serve the film if I allowed Eichmann to contaminate me in any way,” the actor explained. “He still has a density and a force that one must steer clear of. [A] ‘do not let him speak’ kind of thing. So counter-intuitively I decided to be an actor rather like a portrait artist and have Eichmann sit in the corner of my studio…and I would work to get him onto the canvas but never into me. So I had a distinct separation. I was able to sleep at nights, arrive on time, and do my job, and put him down and wipe the paint off my hands and go away.”
Kingsley added that he kept his Eichmann persona “in the corner of my studio” at all times. He told Rosenbaun that the Nazi leader — who was hanged in Israel in 1962 after being found guilty of war crimes — tried to infiltrate his body at times “from the grave,” but Kingsley would not let him in. He said, “I had a distinct pain in my stomach after the film that lasted quite a long time and it was as of there was an indigestible lump in me that eventually dissolved, and I think it was where he was trying to get in. But I wouldn’t let him in.”
During the course of the interview Kingsley also explained that his performance of Eichmann in “Operation Finale” was dedicated to the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, whom the actor had the pleasure of meeting a few times before Wiesel’s death in 2016. Weitz later opened up to Rosenbaum about his personal connection to “Operation Finale” and his German-Jewish father, who wrote historical biographies about Nazis and managed to leave Germany before the Holocaust.
Watch Thane Rosenbaum’s complete interview with Kingsley, Alwyn and Weitz in the video below: