Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ben Kingsley: First Gandhi and now Ibn-Sina

by Salman Hameed

It is pretty cool that Noah Gordon's historical novel, The Physician, is being turned into a film. And Ben Kingsley will be playing Ibn-Sina. Too bad Anthony Quinn isn't alive. For a long time, he used to be the go-to ethnic guy in Hollywood. In particular, he played a fascinating historical trilogy of Muslim characters in Lawrence of Arabia (a hot-headed tribal leader Auda Abu Tayi), The Message (Hamza - uncle of the Prophet) and Lion of the Desert (Omar Mukhtar - the Libyan rebel who fought against the Italians in the early 20th century).

Ben Kingsley has played a number of "ethnic characters" in his long acting career. Of course, his most famous role is of playing Gandhi, but he also played an Iranian in a pretty decent film, House of Sand and Fog. But more recently, he played Al Jazari in a short film (about 13 minutes) for the exhibit 1001 Inventions.

So I guess, the transition to Ibn Sina may not be that difficult. Here is the news item:

Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgard and Tom Payne have signed up for "The Physician," UFA Cinema's adaptation of Noah Gordon's bestseller about a medieval healer who travels from England to Persia to study medicine. 
Directed by Philipp Stoelzl ("Young Goethe in Love") from a script by Jan Berger, the film begins production in June in Morocco and Germany. 
"The Physician" tells the story of Rob Cole, a penniless orphan in an 11th-century English mining town who journeys to Persia to study medicine under Ibn Sina, the philosopher-scientist known as the "doctor of all doctors." 
Payne, the young English actor who most recently appeared in HBO's "Luck," plays the titular protagonist, while Kingsley stars as Ibn Sina. Skarsgard, who currently appears in "The Avengers," plays Barber, Rob's first mentor. The pic also features French thesp Olivier Martinez as the Persian shah. 
"The novel is not only a great adventure revealing the fascinating world of medieval medicine," said Stoelzl, "it also explores some of life's big questions -- about the meaning of death, whether religion is a liberating force or a prison of the mind, and the culture clash between East and West -- all topics that concern us more than ever today."
Published in 1986, "The Physician" has sold more than 21 million copies worldwide.


Anonymous said...

Hamza (uncle of the Prophet in the Messanger) was played by Antony Queen and not by Ben Kingsley!

Salman Hameed said...

Hmm...that is what I said. I was referring to Anthony Quinn as the go-to-ethinc guy before Ben Kingsley. And the movie you are referring to is The Message and not the Messenger - that is a whole different film.


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