I had an opportunity to speak with legend Sir Ben Kingsley about his complex portrayal of Adolf Eichmann in Operation Finale.
There are few actors in this world as renowned and captivating as Sir Ben Kingsley for delivering all-time great performance after all-time great performance. In Operation Finale, Sir Ben Kingsley portrays a man known for pure real-life evil, the architect of the holocaust, in a multi-deminesonial performance. Initially, Kingsley’s Eichmann is presented in Operation Finale as a seemingly ordinary father, who’s disappointed in his son Klaus after he lashes out against his (unknowingly) Jewish girlfriend. He poses the question, “This is how I raised you?” and to go make things right with Sylvia. The audience is then presented with an image of Eichmann sitting with his younger child, enjoying watching trains pass. An innocent activity out of context, a truly surreal, horrifying visual in-context as Eichmann.
It’s the first time in a film we see Eichmann in the context of his family life, showing the audience, these are in actor Lior Raz’ (who portrays Isser Harel in Operation Finale) words “real, real people” who did these horrible things. They are not otherworldly beings or monsters crafted in a book but real people who did the unspeakable. It’s of vital importance to note this fact because as Lior Raz has commented, “It could still happen today.”
One of the most enduring images in Operation Finale is that of an Eichmann being more preoccupied with wiping ink off his shirt sleeve as Jews are shot without mercy in trenches. Eichmann describes that he might have seen Peter Malkin’s sister among them holding her baby, asking for it to be saved, during what appears to be a flashback. Yet, is referenced by Eichmann as what he thinks Malkin believes happened right after. Leading the question if Eichmann recounted what did truly happen or not in the film. Yet, Kingsley’s Eichmann attempts to plead that his crimes were that of his superiors and he was just doing his job. That he should not take the brunt of the blame, or as he calls it in Operation Finale, be the “scapegoat” to Peter Malkin’s [Oscar Isaac] people in Israel.
Eventually, Kingsley’s Eichmann agrees to go willingly to answer for his unspeakable crimes if he is allowed the promise of seeing his wife again. Earlier Eichmann is constantly concerned if is family is safe until Oscar Isaac’s Peter Malkin confirms that they are indeed safe, “What do you think we are?” It’s ironic that Eichmann is so concerned about what might happen to see family when he saw through a plan to see millions of other ones to be permanently ruined.
Sir Ben Kingsley told me that he “was was very privileged to look at him (Eichmann) from the perspective of his victims.” How the “perception of the role was not defined by his [Eichmann’s] ideology,” and rather his preparation for the role, ‘was defined by acquaintance and friendship with his victims.’
Interview with Sir Ben Kingsley on Operation Finale :
Sir Ben Kingsley: Hello Nir!
Nir Regev: Hey, so you played a character that was very complex. I felt you brought a lot of sympathetic elements.
Sir Ben Kingsley: Good.
Nir Regev: It was an interesting character where even after he got caught initially and tried denying it, where I felt maybe again they caught the wrong guy. I’m really interested to hear your research and general inspirations to play this kind of completely new perspective, on what people envision as just evil, and the architect, and all that kind of stuff.
Sir Ben Kingsley: I think that the actual trial showed us how he was perceived from the point of view of his victims. The first time ever I think, that such a trial was televised worldwide and the world had an opportunity to see his victims point to him. In other words, he seemed to be in that glass box shaped and defined, not by his ideology but by his victims. That’s where the truth emerges. I spent time as you probably know with Simon Wiesenthal when I portrayed him in Murderers Among Us, the HBO series. He was the great Nazi hunter, who in fact discovered that Eichmann was in Buenos Aires. And I’ve already played that man, which is very interesting.
Then of course, I moved into Schindler’s List under Steven’s guidance and met the Pfefferberg family and other survivors on the list. And then I was graced with the opportunity of playing Otto Frank, the remarkable father of Anne Frank. In the film footage of the trial, you see the enormous grief unleashed from the witnesses’ perspective. I, from all the wonderful people that I’ve mentioned, including Miep Gies who hid Anne Frank in the attic with her family, was at the receiving end in them of a tidal wave of grief… Accompanied by an extraordinary dignity. And it is that wave of grief that defines what these people did to people. So my perception of the role was not defined by his ideology. And my preparation for the role, was thank goodness, defined by my acquaintance and my friendship with his victims. I was very privileged to look at him from the perspective of his victims.
Nir Regev: The scene in which you wipe off ink and it’s kind of almost like a flashback. I was wondering when I was watching the movie was that supposed to have actually happened? Or was that you just trying to kind of hone in on Peter [Malkin] and try to say ‘Oh, this is what you think I did?’
Sir Ben Kingsley: In the film, he mentions the child had some blood splashing on him. There is a very bizarre connection between cruelty and sentimentality. And also when a soul is stained, there is some obsessive, repetitive gesture that sometimes accompanies that. Like the famous washing of the hands of Lady Macbeth. And it’s a similar kind of dramatic gesture, that I think encapsulates the bizarre combination of utter indifference to the fate of people and yet making sure that his shoelaces are tied properly, and his tie is straight. It’s a very odd combination but it does exist.
Of that fastidiousness, in the dress. And also of course the scientific process, mechanical process, military process of the fastidiousness with lists and film footage, and photographs of destroying as many of Europe’s Jews as they possibly could. It’s very hard for us to understand but it is an extraordinary combination.
Nir Regev: Thank you very much!
Sir Ben Kingsley: Thank you!
See Operation Finale in theaters starting today.
P.J. Soles is back as Marcy Taylor in new retro-themed horror, Candy Corn, and spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the film, her life as an actress and everything in-between.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: There was a time in your life when you stepped away from acting. What brought you back to the horror film genre and ultimately playing Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn?
P.J. Soles: I was happy to do the fan conventions, which are wonderful, and spend time with my grandkids. I didn’t want to really work in movies anymore. I felt the conventions kept me connected to that part of my life. I was also busy doing other things, always toying with the idea of writing my autobiography… It’s just so hard to get going on a project about yourself! The first one to approach me for Candy Corn was actually Director Josh Hasty. He just made it sound so appealing and I liked him, we had a really nice conversation on the phone. But I laid it out! I said, “You know, I don’t work that great, I’m getting old, I might forget my lines!” It takes a lot of energy to pull it together. For me, making the moment real, being realistic on screen, and presenting a character that’s not you, not myself is important to me. But Josh convinced me!
What struck me first about Candy Corn was the beautiful cinematography. I always look at that, then I look at the characters and everybody was just painted amazingly. A great cast of characters! I liked the story and setting in the ’70s. I thought Director Josh Hasty was going for that retro look, which is appealing to me because it’s kind of familiar. [laughs] In terms of special effects, I thought they were beautifully done… If you can assign the word ‘beautiful’ to a ‘terrible’ special effect like someone’s spine getting ripped out. You can say they’re realistic! [laughs]
So, Candy Corn was the first ‘Yes!’ but I actually filmed it in December. I did Hanukkah first, then Killer Therapy, which is actually going to have a screening this October. There’s been no press about it, they’re keeping it on the down-low. In the horror community these days, they wanna keep things kind of quiet until the project has been fully edited, music added, and really pulled together.
When I was watching Candy Corn, there seemed to be a relationship in the air between Marcy and Sheriff Sam Bramford. Thus, I was anticipating some kind of interaction between Marcy and the Sheriff’s son, the lead antagonist as well. It felt like a natural fit. How do you feel about that?
Oh yeah, that would have been great! Well, it can’t happen in the sequel, if there is one. I live, he doesn’t! [laughs]
It’s nice to be in a horror movie and not get killed, right?
That’s actually my guiding principle now! I’m happy to play in any movie, I just don’t want to get killed. Not too many lines and no death scenes, that’s what I tell my agent! [laughs]
I recall an interview with VH1, where you mentioned wanting to ‘milk your death’ scene (as Lynda van der Klok) in Halloween for as long as possible to get screen time. Do you feel that’s what it takes as an actor to get time out there?
It’s your swan song. When you do that last scene on set, they say, “That’s a wrap on P.J. thank you,” and I don’t want that moment to come! (laughs) When I was going out of frame in Halloween, I suddenly realized I’m not going to be on screen anymore… So, I just kept doing the choked noises till John (Carpenter) yelled Cut!
Speaking of that era… You did a commercial for Pizza Hut Tacos back in 1979, how do you reflect back on that?
(laughs) Oh my God! You know what’s so funny about that? The shirt that I wear in that commercial is also the same pink-and-white stripped shirt that I wore in some of the promos we shot for Halloween. The promos were taken back at the casting offices by Kim Gottlieb and I had that very shirt on! Obviously, one of my favorite shirts. When I first saw that commercial I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the shirt in all the Halloween stills!”
I actually don’t eat beef and never have since I was a kid and heard beef comes from cows. Which made me sad. Every time I took a bite in the commercial I had to spit it out. There is a spit bucket for those of us who don’t eat what we’re advertising! (laughs)
That incident that happened on the set of Carrie, where you ruptured your ear drum… As an actress, did you have any regrets about doing the role at the time because of that? Obviously, it did lead you to getting a role in Halloween so things more than worked out. Do you have any permanent hearing loss from what happened on Carrie?
What? (laughs) Just kidding! It was so painful… It was unbelievably painful to rupture my ear drum which was caused by a fire hose that the fire marshal said is not a good idea to use. Especially, (Carrie Director) Brian [De Palma] wanted it to bat my head around back and forth. So, Dick Ziker, the stunt coordinator, said, “Oh man, that fire hose!” It was an accident for sure but it went full force and I literally just blacked out, went down and slid down the bleachers. The grips came running and picked me up. It was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt besides childbirth!
For six months, I went to the doctor and I got workman’s comp, they put drops in my ear. I can hear better than ever! I do have a little scar tissue there and I have go to my ENT from time to time but it didn’t leave any lasting problem. I’m definitely totally happy that I did the movie! Probably, would have rethought the firehose in retrospect. But it all worked out okay.
It’s a good effect and talking about the last time you see me on the screen now, that was actually my swan scene on the film. I didn’t come back to the set after that. When you see me wince in that scene, that’s actually the pain, the initial pain of the ear drum. So, it’s kind of strange but these things happen.
Are you surprised how things work out, that John Carpenter noticed you for the way you said “Totally” in Carrie? I was even half expecting you to say it in Candy Corn!
Yeah, we talked about it but that would have been too much! (laughs) People expect me to say, “Merry Christmas, Totally!” now! It’s become my trademark! I wear the red hat in Carrie, I say “Totally!” in Halloween, and I have that awesome wardrobe in Rock‘n’ Roll High School. #1 fan of The Ramones.
I told John [Carpenter] and Debra [Hill] that I was going to push it and try to say it every time I spoke, and if it gets annoying to let me know. But they never did. I’ve never made an accurate count actually. But a group of college boys told me at a convention that they have a drinking game where they take a shot every time I say “Totally” and they’ve never seen the end of the movie! I said, “I didn’t say it that many times!” (laughs) I think the real number is eleven someone told me but it seems like more than that.
Would you consider a role in a reboot of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School?
Reboot? When is that happening?! (laughs) I don’t know, depends who’s making it. Years ago, Howard Stern wanted to do it. But I think that was 30 years ago. (laughs) Maybe a sequel? What happened to all of us. Can you even find another band these days like The Ramones? I don’t think so! God, I wish! Don’t you wish? Where are the new Rolling Stones and The Eagles, where is this generation’s music? Come on guys! I’m waiting for it!
In the VH1 interview above, you mention not being a fan of The Ramones’ music until you met them. How come?
Well, no because I’d never heard them.
How did that happen?!
Well it was 1979, and I was listening to The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell all those people at the time. The Ramones weren’t on the radar yet in California. Maybe in New York which is probably why Allan Arkush, the Director, knew about them. But they were just starting, they were just coming aboard the scene, definitely well known in the CBGBs and all that in New York but not in Los Angeles. So, when Allan gave me a cassette and I put it in, I just really didn’t relate to it and I didn’t know what it was… But I said, “Alright, I’m their #1 fan!” (laughs)
It took me I would say, probably ten weeks to two years to really hear their music and understand what it was. Now, it’s just so commonplace and amazing! I really love The Ramones!
What happened at that Star Wars audition for Princess Leia with George Lucas?
We weren’t told what movies they were casting, we were just told there would be two directors at that time. This was back around in 1975. They weren’t really that known yet. I mean I think Brian De Palma had done a couple of movies but he wasn’t really an established director yet, at least not in the mainstream. Probably, again in New York City. So, I walked in, I had my red hat on! I had just moved to L.A. two weeks prior from Manhattan, where I had lived for five years and wanted to get into movies. I was living at the Magic Hotel in Hollywood, and my modeling agency sent me up on this audition.
Brian just looked at me and then looked at George and said I’ll put it on my list. Then he said, “Next audition bring your hat!” Then there were three subsequent auditions after that with the whole cast that actually ended up being in the movie. I don’t think he picked one person in all those three subsequent casting sessions and screen tests that didn’t end up in the movie. So, he had a very good eye I think for casting. A year later, we found out it was for Star Wars. But even then, it wasn’t what it was today. Star Wars took a while to catch on too at the time.
Was that the one role you wish you got?
No! Oh my gosh, I love my Norma! She wasn’t even in Stephen King’s book, there was no Norma in the Carrie book. But Brian De Palma had put the one line in, ‘Thanks a lot Carrie, ‘ when she blew the volleyball game in the beginning. I really was only on for a week. But after he saw the dailies for that… I had rainbow pins on my hat and I hit Sissy [Spacek] over the head with my hat.
The pins got stuck in her hair and I just yanked it out. So, it just looked so nasty! I apologized to Sissy but she said, “No, this is going to look great!” Brian laughed and thought it was so funny. He said she’s on for the rest of the shoot. I’m going to pair her up with Nancy Allen, the two of them are going to be my my little bad girls. [laughs] So, that was awesome!
You mentioned wanting to work on your autobiography earlier. What are some parts of your past that you’d like to be part of it?
I went overseas for all of my childhood. My father was from Holland and my mother was from Englewood, New Jersey and they met in Germany after the war. Her first husband was killed and she went over there to help with the rebuilding as a secretary. My dad was helping Jews escape Holland and he was captured and put in a Nazi work camp. He was released by the American army and brought to the same base as my mother and so they met.
It took a whole lot of circumstance for me to be brought into the world! I was born in Germany and then my dad got a job with a company where he had to open up branch offices for around the world. We moved to Morocco, Venezuela (Maracaibo) where I spent six years, and then Brussels in Belgium.
I went to a high school in the International School of Brussels and learned French and Spanish. I was really on a writing and language track rather than an acting thing. Although, I had always acted in a lot of the school productions but it wasn’t something I thought was even possible. I hadn’t watched a lot of movies growing up. I went to Briarcliffe College in New York state in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year, where I was going to transfer to Georgetown University in Washington.
My roommate was from the city and I stayed with her for the summer because my parents had transferred to Istanbul, Turkey. I happened to come across The Actors Studio and there was a sign, ‘We’ll trade running spotlight for auditing classes,’ so I ran a spotlight on Joanna Miles and Scott Glenn that whole summer. I met a guy who happened to be Joshua White of The Joshua Light Show.
He told me, “Girls, on the catwalk probably shouldn’t be wearing short dresses!” [laughs] He convinced me to quit college and get serious about acting, and start acting, so he got me an agent. I did commercials, I was on a soap opera and it got everything Rolling. But when I think of my autobiography, I’d start with my life as a child because I think that was enough of a life… Without anything else afterwards. But then on top of that there was this wonderful acting career!
New sci-fi short film ‘Thanks for the Memories’ debuts on DUST today with a mind-bending plot seemingly inspired by Total Recall.
This article contains spoilers for film Thanks for the Memories.
Thanks for the Memories loosely explores the concept of trading in memories for experiences in a dystopian manner. The individual’s memories are sold to collectors the same way an art piece would sell at an auction. Mere commodities for the upper class to indulge in at the expense and exploitation of the proletariat. The company which provides the service compares the experiences to the same ones before the age of three. Meaning, the experiences make a life long impact though you don’t remember them in any tangible way.
The twist arrives when the protagonist Joel Fink played by Will Merrick, realizes he’d done the experience countless times before.
Ironically, Fink is steadfast in his naive initial belief that, “I don’t usually do this sort of thing.” It’s only when he catches a glance of eye contact with a girl [Thea Collings] exiting the premises that a flood of romantic memories awaken him.
As he signs on the dotted line, distortion takes over and viewers see an elder Fink signing once again… Presumably, for the first time in Fink’s eyes. Thus, the reasoning for his travel agent’s impatience at explaining the program. Quite Memento-ish.
It’s a shame the short is not a full feature as there’s so much territory one can cover with such an intriguing concept. Just as Total Recall’s Douglas Quaid once opened minds in his journey to Mars and left you wondering past the credits.
Thanks for the Memories stars Will Merrick (Skins), Jolyon Coy (Beauty and the Beast), Thea Collings (The Cake Maker), and Ed Jones in his film debut. The film is written by Felix Morgan and directed by Louis Norton-Selzer.
Thanks for the Memories Synopsis:
Joel Fink finds himself in a travel agent being offered the trip of a lifetime – anything he could ever want at whatever cost. It won’t cost him a penny but there is one catch: he won’t remember any of it when he gets back.
Why would anyone do that? The agent’s reply: it all depends on what you value more, memories or experiences? Joel decides experiences. It’s only when the agent opens Joel’s large file that we see it’s not the first trip he’s been on…not by a long stretch.
Visit the official DUST website to watch other intriguing, curated, independent Sci-Fi films (no subscription needed).
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interview with On/Off star Carole Brana which premiered on DUST this May.
Luke Baines spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about drawing from broken relationships as inspiration for Alex in A Dark Place and healing from the process.
This interview contains spoilers to the film, A Dark Place.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: A Dark Place really felt like a story grounded in revenge. What did it feel like when you read the script?
Luke Baines: I think it’s interesting because I’ve played a lot of dark characters, so I was reading it more about a guy who was trapped in an uncomfortable situation. It didn’t feel you know, classically the bad guy, that I’ve played before. He really felt like someone who was struggling to be good and to have his life on track. That’s what I found most interesting about it. I love the fact that it is so grounded in reality and really focuses on human relationships and human dynamics.
There was a key line Alex says in the film when he’s giddy about potentially getting a job and his girlfriend turns it around on him. “When did you start hating me?” It was powerful.
Thanks! That was literally the only line I came up with on the spot! (laughs)
What inspired that line out of you? Since it wasn’t in the script as you say.
I guess it’s one of those things where I just felt that at the moment. We were having this argument and she just kept coming at me and it’s something that we had worked on with Chris [Pinero]. Before we had shot that scene, Jazlyn, Chris, and me did the whole scene through just on subtext. That was something that came out. This idea that Alex was always going to be on a bad foot with her. He was never going to be able to win.
There was really nothing Alex could do that would ever be good for her because at this point he’d just caused so much damage. That’s really what I felt like he wanted to say to her. That it was never going to be good enough, is it? “When did you start hating me?” I think that’s so important to a relationship because sometimes things happen in life that are never going to change. Sometimes, in a relationship you just can’t take it back. You can do all the work but the other person is just never going to forget it. There’s really no way back once a person decides they want out of a relationship.
It feels like, especially from talking to my friends, that women really work ahead when it comes to relationships. They’re usually one step ahead of the guy. That’s kind of where that line came from.
Why do you feel Alex didn’t murder Theresa [Jazlyn Yoder] after he kidnapped her? Did Theresa tell Alex she was pregnant with his child? Since that was not shown on screen, it seems open to the viewer’s interpretation.
I just don’t think that’s who he is. Obviously, he is a murderer because he killed someone. But that seemed more like a crime of passion. I think that the reason that he killed Mike Miller’s character (Keith) is because he was so thrown by what he heard, that he acted out in that way. All the hatred was directed towards him. I think that that’s something that we do in normal life. When something happens, I think we focus on one person and take it out on them. And I think once Alex had done that, he really regretted it. That’s why nothing happened and Alex didn’t actually kill or seriously harm his girlfriend.A Dark Place – Pictured: Luke Baines as Alex – Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company
When Alex has that moment after he killed Keith and says, ‘I’m going to turn myself in!’ Was that just to fool Shawn into helping him with the body? Or was he really considering turning himself in?
I think in Alex’s head, he always knew that suicide was probably going to be the end game. That he had explored the idea before. It wasn’t just the relationship. It was where he was in his life, not being able to get a job, feeling like a failure. The only thing that really was keeping him going on was his girlfriend and the idea of having a child. Getting to start a new life and create something else. When those pieces started falling away, that’s when Alex made the choice. So, I don’t think that he was manipulating his friends.
That section with Alex’s mom, was she supposed to have Alzheimers? It seemed that way when she asked Alex the same question about his girlfriend twice.
Yeah, I think so. We talked about the fact that she was teetering on the edge of some kind of memory loss and some kind of disassociation.
Chris [Pinero] told me he knew you were right for the role the moment he saw your audition. How did you prepare for the audition? Anything different than usual?
You know, interestingly this was one of the first auditions that I properly trusted myself with. Really because I thought I had no chance, the character was written a lot older than I’ve ever played. I was like I don’t know if they’re even going to take me seriously. I remember reading it and just thinking well if I was given the role, this is what I would do that. I played it exactly on my instincts that I got from reading the character descriptions and the actual script itself. And I I very much played that, as opposed to going into a room and trying to give someone what they wanted.
When it comes to number of takes, do you believe in reshooting a scene until you get it right? Stanley Kubrick The Shining style. Or do you prefer the pressure of knowing you only have a certain amount of takes and that’s it?
It’s interesting and it’s something that I’ve actually been working on recently. I do a show called Shadowhunters and on that you’re doing a lot more takes. I would say on average on Shadowhunters, you’re doing about 30 takes because of the different setups. So you do about five or six takes per setup and you have about four setups. On A Dark Place, we were doing one or two takes per setup so it was very, very different.
What’s interesting about it though, was when you go from something like doing an indie film to doing a big production, a Disney show, where you get more takes… Is that when I first started doing that show, I would get all my good takes out in the first couple of shots. And then I get to two and a half hours, three hours later where we’re still doing the same thing and I have to keep doing it… Keeping up that momentum was really really difficult for me.
It’s something I have to get good at and find different triggers to keep on going. Find new places to explore. So, I don’t know if there is one that is better. Maybe, an option C. Where I get a little bit more time but I’m not doing a ton of takes. (laughs)
A Dark Place – Pictured: Luke Baines as Alex – Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company
What was it like shooting that scene in A Dark Place with the hammer?
It was intense and I really dug up some real stuff that I’ve been through. Which was interesting because I never really get a chance to do that normally. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has been very imagination based.
When you use sense memory to emotionally recall traumatizing experiences, does it become weaker over time? Or is the impact always the same for you?
Yeah, for me it does. I lean more towards imagination based acting when I do it because I find that never gets stale. For me, I think acting sometimes is like therapy and when you use those memories you heal them a little bit. This film was definitely that for me. This is the kind of relationship stuff that I healed by doing this film. I just don’t think that they have the same triggers that they used to, that they would have now.
Were you disappointed your character got killed because you can’t really be in a sequel?
(laughs) I think that from a personal perspective sure! But Alex needed to go through that. So no.
What did it mean to you to get nominated for Best TV Villain at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards?
You know it’s interesting, It’s so lovely to think that so many fans of Shadowhunters spent the time to go online and tweet, and vote like they did. I find that really, really endearing, flattering and lovely! But at the same time, it’s like you know, awards are very weird. I don’t think that just because I got the nomination, I was necessarily one of the best villains on TV last year. It just happened to be, that I was lucky enough to be on a show that had a very passionate fanbase. I’m really grateful for that!
Thank you Luke!
A Dark Place was named Best Thriller at the Manhattan Film Festival (2018), won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor at the Hoboken International Film Festival (2018) and was the recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Accolade Global Film Competition (2018).