Sir Ben Kingsley has revealed that he had no reservations about sporting facial tattoos for Ender's Game.

The 69-year-old had his entire face covered in the Maori inkings for his portrayal of New Zealand warrior Mazer Rackham in Gavin Hood's big-screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card's sci-fi novel. The ritual facial artwork represents Mazer's ancestry.

"In the army, there are campaign medals and ribbons. A Maori warrior is allowed to wear these campaign medals on his face. Gavin was quite nervous about mentioning them because he was afraid I might say I wouldn't wear them," he said.

"He nervously embarked on this dissertation about whether I would want a Maori expert and the meaning of the tattoos, and I said, 'Hold it right there. If it helps you tell your story, I shall put them on in make-up'. It's that simple with me."

The actor admitted he tapped into a Zen-like state in the make-up chair, with the 'tattooing' process initially taking around two hours.

"When I am in make-up, I tend to sit very quietly. I don't chat, none of that blah blah goes on," he said.

"I close my eyes and go into this meditative state - I sometimes run my lines, I sometimes go blank. Why over-complicate things?"

When he first met his co-stars including Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Harrison Ford with his Maori make-up on, he saw first-hand the impressions the tattoos made.

"Everyone was gathered together for Gavin's birthday. I walked in, in my Maori make-up for the first time, and it changed the way my fellow actors looked at and listened to me. It was the missing ingredient in my character that I didn't need to act," he said.

:: Ender's Game is in cinemas now.