When Ben Kingsley guest-starred on The Sopranos in 2006, he played a character he knew well. In “Luxury Lounge” (season 6 episode 7), the Oscar-winning star of Gandhi (1982) and Sexy Beast (2000) played a version of himself in scenes with Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and Ray Abruzzo (Carmine Lupertazzi Jr.).
Kingsley played “Sir Ben Kingsley,” a highly respected actor known for putting on airs after being knighted in 2001. By the time of his Sopranos appearance, Kingsley had felt some backlash for insisting people refer to him as “Sir Ben,” as he did at a ’03 press conference. (A reporter had called him “Mr. Kingsley.”)
A few years later, after the movie poster for Lucky Number Slevin (2006) billed him as “Sir Ben Kingsley,” The Guardian reported the also-knighted Roger Moore was among those who called out Kingsley for his “pretentious” behavior. “I think Ben’s barmy,” Moore said at the time.
Kingsley pokes fun at that side of himself in his Sopranos performance. However, Abruzzo and Imperioli didn’t know what to expect prior to tackling their scenes with the great actor.
Ray Abruzzo recalled being ‘warned’ that Ben Kingsley might be difficult on ‘The Sopranos’ set
How accurately did Sopranos writers portray the pre-awards scene at Hollywood hotels? If the photos of Kingsley in “luxury lounges” from the era are any indication, the writers nailed it. They also played up Kingsley’s reputation for pompousness.
On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Abruzzo spoke about his preparation for the shoot — and whether he referred to Kingsley by his formal title. “Yeah, we called him ‘Sir Ben,’” Abruzzo recalled. “We were warned that it might be difficult.”
Imperioli, who co-hosts Talking Sopranos, apparently hasn’t heard about the “Sir Ben” incidents of the time. “I don’t think that’s true,” Imperioli said. “Everyone always says, ‘You gotta [call him by his title].’ I don’t think he demands that.”
Well, Kingsley might not have demanded it on the Sopranos set. Given the negative press he’d received — he once caught heat for his email signature “SBK” — you can understand why. “If I’ve ever insisted on being called ‘Sir’ by colleagues on a film set, than I am profoundly sorry,” Kingsley told The Telegraph a few months before “Luxury Lounge” aired.
Abruzzo and Michael Imperioli recalled Kingsley being great to work with on ‘The Sopranos’
Despite the warnings, Abruzzo quickly saw that Kingsley wasn’t going to be difficult. “We found out that it’s not true,” Abruzzo said on Talking Sopranos. “I remember when we were sitting around the pool. We were just three guys sitting around by the pool, waiting for those shots.”
At another point, Kingsley helped Abruzzo loosen up before the cameras rolled for a scene. “I remember walking down the hallway before we went in, and he’s massaging my shoulders” Abruzzo said.
At the end of working with Kingsley, Abruzzo didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “It was nothing like you thought it would be,” Abruzzo recalled. “It was just another actor having fun. I loved those scenes. He was great.”
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