Ben Kingsley Preps for 'Oliver Twist'

Monday, August 22nd 2005, 9:58 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Ben Kingsley prepped for the part of the villain Fagin in Roman Polanski's upcoming ``Oliver Twist'' _ but not by poring over the director's collection of Jewish cockney tape recordings.

``I never listened to them,'' Kingsley told The New York Times for its Sunday editions. ``I grow from the inside out. I said to Roman, ``I met this man, I met him when I was Oliver's age.'

Kingsley's man was the owner of a junk shop in a neighborhood called Shambles in Manchester, England.

``I used to stare at this man who had teeth like a horse, a very, very grimy face, and he wore an old coat, on top of an old coat, on top of heaven knows what, and it was tied 'round the waist with rope.''

When Kingsley's little brother asked the man for a rare Penny Black stamp, the shopkeeper _ in a voice that sounded like Fagin's _ said: ``Ohhh, yer askin' for the moooon! Yer askin' for the moon!''

In the 1968 film version of the musical, Fagin was played by Alec Guinness. That interpretation has been criticized by Polanski and his screenwriter, Ronald Harwood, as a Jewish stereotype.

Kingsley said he hadn't seen Guinness' Fagin since he was a boy and didn't know about the criticism of the portrayal.

Generally speaking, however, Kingsley told the newspaper: ``I think we have to destroy the stereotypes and replace them with archetypes.''

``Oliver Twist'' is set for release next month.