Arts and Culture

Richard Attenborough dies aged 90

Kylie MacLellan

The acclaimed actor and director was famous for his role as businessman John Hammond in 'Jurassic Park' and as the director of the film 'Gandhi'.

Sir Richard Attenborough, award-winning actor and director, died aged 90 on Sunday, August 24 2014. (Reuters)

British actor and film director Lord Attenborough died on Sunday just days before his 91st birthday, the BBC reported, citing his son.

One of Attenborough’s greatest achievements was making the cinematic tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, for which he won an Oscar for best director. But he also won worldwide acting fame for roles such as a theme park owner in the blockbuster Jurassic Park.

Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on August 29 1923 in Cambridge, England. Knighted in 1976 and made a baron in June 1993, he was the elder brother of naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough.

His father Frederick was a university professor, and his mother marched behind a banner denouncing Spanish dictator General Franco and helped care for Spanish Civil War refugees.

Attenborough, who said he longed to act from the age of four, won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1941. That year he made his stage debut in London’s West End and in 1942 played his first film part in Noel Coward’s In Which We Serve.

He later joined the Royal Air Force, qualifying as a pilot, and in 1944 volunteered for a unit filming over Germany.

Attenborough played underdogs and misfits in a string of character roles after World War II, notably Brighton Rock, Seance on a Wet Afternoon and 10 Rillington Place.

Best director for ‘Gandhi’
Known as a jovial, stalwart personality, he went on to have a long track record in the British theatre and film industry.

His fifth film as a director, Gandhi established him as one of Britain’s best-known cinema personalities and won him a string of international awards. The $22-million epic came out in 1982 and scooped eight Hollywood Oscars including best director – a record for a British film.

He was also a shrewd businessman with interests in commercial radio and television in Britain, and a tireless worker for numerous charities. Part of his share of the profits from Gandhi went to organisations like the Save the Children Fund and Gandhi’s own ashrams – or alms houses – in India.

Attenborough suffered a stroke in 2008 and was confined to a wheelchair. He had been living in a care home for those in the theatrical profession with his wife, actress Sheila Sim.

His agent could not immediately be reached for comment. The BBC reported that his family was expected to make a full statement on Monday.

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