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Ben Kingsley

Who's got the guts to tell him he won't get nommed?

OSCAR QUOTIENT

PROS: Kingsley is loading up on several “best” lists, including a Globes nom.

CONS: Ferocity of his performance, and pic’s darkness, might scare off some.

Ben Kingsley should be ashamed of himself. He’s a fraud.

For 35-plus years he’s had this polished facade of an erudite, uncommonly civilized gentleman of enormous talent, with decades of acclaim as a Shakespearean actor. He’s known for the intelligent portrayal of characters in unforgettable and prestigious films ranging from “Schindler’s List” all the way back to “Gandhi,” for which he won an Oscar.

And now, two decades later, it’s even more obvious how well deserved that golden eunuch is.

In “Sexy Beast,” Kingsley, who recently picked up the actor honor at the European Film Awards, forever ditches the white sheet of the saintly Mahatma to reveal the maddest and blackest of sociopathic lost-and-loony souls.

“I was thrilled when I read it,” Kingsley confesses recently over breakfast at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. He knew immediately the role of Don Logan was the part of a lifetime.

“I accepted the next day,” he smiles between small bites of scrambled eggs. “It was as empowering as maybe reading 400 years ago Richard III for the first time. Or, 400 years ago, reading Iago, a great classic. Vengeful. A man who was more like a weapon than a man.”

The script had key elements any actor would kill for: a true star turn, with the opportunity to take villainy to a totally evolutionary level, arching to a feral ferocity rarely seen. All the while using only words and his voice as a battering ram to force/compel, even destroy.

“So,” Kingsley continues, “Jonathan (Glazer), the director, said, ‘For a change, Ben, what we’re gonna have to do, what I’d like you to do, just as an idea is bury your intelligence right at the back of your skull.’

“I thought that little conversation, that took maybe 20 seconds, was absolutely vital to me, on the money.”

Earlier, at his home in the English countryside, he had recorded all his lines then listened to them on a headset as he did his daily five-mile hike, learning and shaping the character almost, as he confides, by osmosis.

Those hikes should have him well prepared for the Oscar journey that winds up March 24.

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