British film legend Richard Attenborough dies aged 90

Lord Richard Attenborough, the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker of such prestige films like The Great Escape, Gandhi and Jurassic Park, has died at the age of 90.

His death was announced yesterday by his son Michael, having spent the last six years of his life living in a nursing home.

Born in Cambridge in 1923, he began acting at the age of just 12 and eventually made his first screen appearance as a young stoker in the naval drama In Which We Serve (1942).

Five years later, his career breakthrough came in his chilling portrayal of young criminal Pinkie in the British crime thriller Brighton Rock (1947).


The role won him mass acclaim and he ultimately gained traction over the next twenty years with other memorable screen performances like Lt. Richard Lexey in The League of Gentlemen (1960), Bartlett “Big X” in the renowned war epic The Great Escape (1963), Lew Moran in Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Albert Blossom in Doctor Doolittle (1967).

In between all that, he clinched a Best British Actor BAFTA award for his joint roles in Guns at Batasi (1965) and Seance on a Wet Afternoon (’65).

Attenborough then made his directional debut in 1969 with the war musical Oh What a Lovely War! before producing another terrifying acting role as British murderer John Christie in the crime drama 10 Rillington Place (1971).

His directing career then stepped up in the 70s with the historical biopic Young Winston (1972), which charted the life of British prime minster Winston Churchill before following that up with the war epic A Bridge Too Far (1977), a film that bolsters one of the best ensemble casts in cinema history.

He then took a fourteen year break from acting to continue his film-making and ended up receiving mass acclaim for his epic biopic Gandhi (1982), which depicted the extraordinary life of another historical figure, Mohandas K. Gandhi.

The film clinched a massive eight Oscar wins including Best Picture and Best Director for Attenborough as well as garnering a record-breaking sixteen BAFTA nominations (for which the 60 year old would receive the BAFTA Fellowship).

He then helmed more true-life stories in the form of Cry Freedom (1987) and the Charlie Chaplin biopic Chaplin (1992), the latter of which starred Robert Downey Jr in his best on-screen performance to date.

The now-veteran filmmaker finally came out of acting retirement to take on the popular role of dinosaur professor John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s prehistoric blockbuster Jurassic Park (1993).

That same year also saw him direct the romantic drama Shadowlands, which starred Anthony Hopkins as real-life author C.S Lewis. He then followed that up with another memorable role as Kris Kringle, a man who insists that he is the real Santa Claus, in the Christmas film remake A Miracle on 34th Street (1993).

In his later years, Attenborough mostly featured in TV productions with his final cinematic contribution being his directing of the romantic drama Closing the Ring (2007).

Throughout his remarkable life, he was appointed a CBE in 1967 and knighted nine years later in 1976, before being made a life peer in 1993.

He was also well known for his brotherly bond with sibling David Attenborough, Britain’s greatest animal expert.

There was tragedy in his life too when his elder daughter Jane Holland, her daughter, Lucy, and her mother-in-law, also named Jane, were killed in the South Asian Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

Attenborough is survived by his actress wife of 64 years, Shelia Sim.

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