Ben Kingsley credits Elie Wiesel for new movie on Nazi hunters
© Getty Images

Actor Ben Kingsley is crediting Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize–winning author and Holocaust survivor, as the inspiration behind his new film.

“Elie Wiesel told me to make this film,” Kingsley said Wednesday night during a special screening of "Operation Finale" at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The historical thriller tells the story of the mission to capture former SS officer Adolf Eichmann a decade after World War II. Kingsley plays the war criminal in the film.


Kingsley said in his last talk with Wiesel, who died in 2016, that he promised he would dedicate a performance to him.

“Every day on the set, I said to myself, I said to Elie — because I had his photograph in my pocket — ‘Elie, I’m doing this for you,' ” he said.

The film has received rave reviews for its depiction of the Nazi hunters who undertook the risky mission to track down Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 and bring him to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Eichmann was found guilty and executed in 1962.

Kingsley said he felt a “sense of urgency” with the movie.

“Sometimes I have to do a film because my accountant says I have to do it,” but "Operation Finale," he said, was a very different experience.

Kingsley said his conversations with Holocaust survivors were critical to the film.


“The survivors have kind of told me ‘You are now a witness,’ which is an honor and privilege and a great responsibility,” he said.

Director Chris Weitz, the son of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, also spoke about the significance of the new film.

“I think that unfortunately any movie about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust ... has a bearing on the present day."

"Not just in terms of modern anti-Semitism, but the general tendency to treat the other as a kind of whipping post in a way to garner political power,” he added.

Joining Kingsley for the screening was Lior Raz, who portrays Isser Harel, the Mossad director who oversaw the mission.

Raz said it was "amazing” to work with Kingsley.

“It's mind blowing because as a kid I saw him in the movies. I just wanted to be like this guy, and now to work with him, it’s a big issue for me, it’s a big surprise and it’s amazing.”

The film opens in theaters around the country on Aug. 29.