In the new animated family film The Boxtrolls, Sir Ben Kingsley voices the role of the villainous Archibald Snatcher, who wants to accepted into the Victorian-era society of Cheesebridge, whose residents are obsessed by wealth, class and stinky cheeses.
Beneath the cobblestone streets of the town, lies a community of quirky, mischievous creatures known as Boxtrolls, whom Snatcher has convinced the town are dangerous, and is leading a gang known as the Red Hats to capture all of them.
Sir Ben spoke about the movie, and his role of Snatcher, at the press day for the film, which opens on September 26th.
The directors of The Boxtrolls, Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, told us they were delighted and surprised that you would want to do this. What’s your reaction to that?
Well, I don’t know why they were surprised, I’m a jobbing actor, it’s my living and if the script is good, why not? I don’t want to shove myself into a corner.
You can be a bit damned by the myth of being a serious actor, it’s nonsense, there’s no such thing as a serious actor. Well, bad actors are quite serious (he laughs). They take themselves very seriously.
What did you like about the script?
The soundness of it, it rings true on so many levels, and dramatically the devices that it used are absolutely superb.
The debate between good and evil that goes on between those two henchmen of mine is quite remarkable.
Shakespeare did it, he would have a character step out and talk to the audience and then step back in. They’re using the same device and it’s really successful. Instead of pushing you out, it pulls you back in deeper.
Was it hard to find the right voice for Archibald Snatcher?
I could hear the voice in my head, it was quite frustrating, it wasn’t coming out of my body. Snatch’s physical shape and mine are very different, so he voice would come out in a different place.
I sat down and said, ‘Guys, can I just try reclining?’ And as soon as I reclined the voice came from the right place in me.
I needed to not rely on any physical gestures in my speech, no mannerisms whatsoever were recorded, all that was done remarkably in the studio thousands of miles away.
Not acting with the other actors, how important was it to know the other roles?
I read the script from beginning to end several times. It’s an immensely enjoyable script, it’s beautifully written and the psychological journey of each character is absolutely sound, especially the extraordinary debate within the film as to whether they’re the goodies or the baddies.
It’s constantly reminding the audience that it’s a fable to illustrate something.
That’s all it is. We’re trying to tell you a story in the same way Grimm’s Fairy Tales do, Charles Dickens did, Shakespeare did it much earlier, so reading the script was vital and a deeply enjoyable exercise.
Of course, I have to be very well aware [being] the dark force of the film, what light is struggling against me?
And with the dark force fighting against a whole tribe of wonderful, life-affirming, life-enhancing, creative, sweet creatures, and too often fighting against that, I have to bring a force and an energy to the piece that will allow the children to fight back.
If I, as the dark force, am weak, it lessens their heroism.
Did you think you were scary in this?
No, not at all, I’m not scary.