Esteemed veteran actor and Oscar-winning director Richard Attenborough, who won eight Oscars for his 1982 epic movie Gandhi and dominated the British film business for more than half a century has died on Sunday, 24th August at the age of 90. Sir Attenborough, moved to a care home in 2008 with his wife because of his failing health.
His death was confirmed by his son, Michael, to BBC reporters. The New York Times described him as a "giant of British cinema".
AdvertisementThe British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Awards (BAFTA) described its former president as a "titan of British cinema" who set an example of "industry, skill and compassion" that business would do well to live up to.
Born in Cambridge in 1923, Richard Attenborough championed the British film industry through its triumphs and trials, enjoying success as one of Britain's leading actors before becoming a celebrated director and prolific movie-maker.
Sir Attenborough married actress Sheila Sim when he was 21. His son Michael was born in 1949, followed by two daughters, Jane and Charlotte.
Tragedy struck on Boxing Day 2004 when his elder daughter Jane Holland, and her daughter, Lucy, and her mother-in-law, also named Jane, were killed in the south-Asian tsunami.
Until the early 1960s, Attenborough was a familiar actor in Britain but little known in the United States. In London he was the original detective in Agatha Christie's play "The Mousetrap." On the British screen, he made an early mark as the sociopath Pinkie Brown in an adaptation of Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" (1947).
Paving his way into Hollywood, Attenborough starred in in "Private's Progress" (1956), "I'm All Right, Jack" (1959)with "The Great Escape" (1963), "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), "Doctor Doolittle" (1967) and in two of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" movies. He played serial killer John Christie in "10 Rillington Place" (1971).
Sir Attenborough, knighted in 1976, acted in 45 movies before he turned to directing. Gandhi won eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.
Richard, brother of David Attenborough, the naturalist and TV documentary maker, started directing in 1969 with "Oh! What a Lovely War." Then came "Young Winston" (1972), a biography of Winston Churchill's early years, and with World War II drama "A Bridge Too Far" (1977).
In 1962 an Indian official in London urged Attenborough to make a film about Gandhi. Aware that Hollywood director Otto Preminger and U.K. filmmaker David Lean had tried and failed to make a movie on the same topic, Attenborough was hesitant.
But in the next two decades, he made many trips to India, winning the approval of Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
In the late 1970s, Lean said he wanted to make the movie - but he and his would-be scriptwriter backed out and Attenborough was approached again. Shooting began on Nov. 26, 1980, in India and ended 121 days later.
With budget of $22 million, the monumental movie Gandhi featured Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, John Mills and Martin Sheen. Ben Kingsley won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gandhi.
Attenborough was the chairman of Capital Radio, the president of BAFTA, president of the Gandhi Foundation, and president of the British National Film and Television School 1981 to 1992.
He was a lifelong supporter of Chelsea Football Club, serving as a director of the club for 13 years from 1969. Since 1993, he had held the honorary position of Life Vice President.
In 2008, in collaboration with his longstanding associate Diana Hawkins, he published an autobiography, "Entirely Up to You, Darling." The book chronicles a full and eventful life.
But it ends with the death of his daughter and granddaughter in the 2004 tsunami, and his regretting the time he never spent with them. "Work," he wrote, "always took precedence."
Among the numerous tributes, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Labour's leader in the House of Lords, said she was "Very sad to learn of death of Richard Attenborough, a fine man in every way. Proud that he was a Labour peer." she said.
In a statement the film academy added, "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of esteemed filmmaker and former BAFTA President, Lord Attenborough Kt, CBE, whose passionate support of BAFTA for more than 50 years was integral to who we are today. He will be sorely missed."
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