Ben Kingsley Interview on Learning To Drive & The Jungle Book

Sir Ben Kingsley explores intimacy and connection amidst cultural differences in his latest film, Isabel Coixet‘s Learning to Drive.

The Sarah Kernochan-scripted comedy, which had its world premiere at last week’s Toronto International Film Festival, is based on Katha Pollitt‘s 2002 essay in The New Yorker about the friendship she develops with a Filipino driving instructor in the aftermath of a breakup. Along with his Elegy director (Coixet), the film also reunites the Oscar-winning English actor with his co-star in the aforementioned film, Patricia Clarkson.

Learning to Drive follows New York-based literary critic Wendy (Clarkson), a woman who must learn to be independent following the end of a 21-year-marriage with her husband, Ted (Jake Weber), who was caught being unfaithful. With her daughter, Tasha (Grace Gummer), away at college in Vermont, Wendy is left on her own for the first time, forcing her to take up the valuable lesson of learning to drive. Kingsley plays her driving instructor, Darwan, a former university professor from India whose own solitary life is challenged after he weds a stranger (Sarita Choudhury) in an arranged marriage.

In spite of the fact that the two have the most unfortunate first meeting during the opening scene in which Wendy and her husband get into a public dispute, they quickly form a connection that transcends their cultural and social differences. Whilst growing close to Wendy as her guide in taking a new route in her life, Darwan subsequently and surprisingly has his own troubles in communicating with a woman from his own native country, something that Wendy tries to help him with.

After seeing the film at its premiere screening, I had the great opportunity to chat with Kingsley at a roundtable interview, where I talked to him about the film’s theme of making a genuine connection as well as his upcoming role in Jon Favreau‘s adaptation of The Jungle Book.