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Ben Kingsley to Play the James Cameron of Silent Cinema

By Miscellaneous | | March 15, 2010 |

By Miscellaneous | | March 15, 2010 |

If Leonardo DiCaprio is the new Robert DeNiro, what does that make Sir Ben Kingsley, who will work with Martin Scorsese once again in the director’s first children’s film (if you don’t count the PG-rated The King of Comedy), The Invention of Hugo Cabret? The guy best known as Gandhi will reportedly portray real-life magician-turned-filmmaker Georges Melies, who was kinda like the James Cameron of the 19-aughts, in the adaptation of the Brian Selznick fantasy novel.

If you’ve never seen one of Melies’ films, you’re probably at least familiar with the Smashing Pumpkins video he made (for some reason the IMDb credits the thing to Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris). In any event, I’m a big fan of the early proponent of effects-heavy cinema, and though I don’t think Kingsley looks like the guy, I am glad someone other than Terry Gilliam is giving him some due recognition. Hopefully Scorsese will even validate Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in the process.

Deadline New York also reports that Sacha Baron Cohen has joined Scorsese’s film, possibly as a train station inspector. I don’t know much about the book, but that puts visions in my head of Borat starring in Shining Time Station. Which would be awesome.

But it would be even more awesome if Baron Cohen were playing the Lumiere brothers (yes, both of them) and this movie were about a turf war over the future of cinema, with Baron Cohen and Baron Cohen fighting Kingsley in the streets of Paris over whether movies should be based in realism or escapism. Obviously, Kingsley (and Avatar) would win in the end.

Since most blogs reporting on this (so far) don’t seem to know anything about Melies (hence their plagiarism of Deadline’s description), here’s a single interesting response to the casting:

  • Russ Fischer at /Film:
    I hadn’t realized that Méliès played a part in the tale, and knowing that makes Scorsese’s interest in the project much more clear. Méliès is one of the foremost practitioners of early special effects in films; he’s been called the inventor of many cinematic tricks, and his films are some of the earliest examples of science fiction, fantasy and horror on celluloid. He’s a natural subject for the cinephile Scorsese.

    And having Méliès played by Kingsley, whose work in Scorsese’s Shutter Island was far more adroit and nuanced than the early trailers made it appear, sounds like a wonderful thing. Sacha Baron Cohen, meanwhile, is a very able actor who has too few appearances outside of his stable of Da Ali G Show characters. I’d love to see what Scorsese does with him.

Pajiba After Dark 3/15/10 | "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" by Michael Chabon