(Reuters) - Richard Attenborough, who spent two decades trying to persuade skeptical movie moguls to back a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and eventually created one of the most successful films of all time, died on Sunday, the BBC reported, citing his son.
The elder brother of naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, he was aged 90. Here are a few details about his life:
- Attenborough played underdogs and misfits in a string of character roles after World War Two, notably in “Brighton Rock”, “Seance on a Wet Afternoon” and “10 Rillington Place”.
- In 1967 and 1968, he won back-to-back Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe Awards, the first for “The Sand Pebbles” and the second for “Doctor Dolittle”, starring Rex Harrison.
- In 1969 Attenborough directed his first film, “Oh What a Lovely War”, a side-swipe at militarism. It won 16 international awards.
- Attenborough’s 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.
- In 1987 he produced “Cry Freedom”, a film about Steve Biko, the South African black civil rights activist who died in police custody.
- Attenborough’s eighth film as a director was a biopic of comic actor Charlie Chaplin, “Chaplin”, with Robert Downey, Jr. He said that Chaplin’s film “The Gold Rush” was “the one which made me want to act professionally”.
- In 1993 he played the eccentric developer John Hammond in “Jurassic Park” and a year later starred in a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
- Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on Aug. 29, 1923, in Cambridge, eastern England.
- His father, Frederick, was a university professor, and his mother, Mary, marched behind a banner denouncing Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco and helped care for Spanish Civil War refugees.
- He was knighted in 1976 and made a Life Peer in 1993. - Attenborough, who longed to act from the age of 4, 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”.
- In 1959, in partnership with Bryan Forbes, he set up Beaver Films, through which he produced “The Angry Silence” and “Whistle Down the Wind” (1961).
- He was chairman of RADA, chairman of Channel 4 Television, as well as chairman of the British Film Institute and president of the British Screen Advisory Council. He had been a visiting professor of drama at Oxford and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.
- Attenborough married the English actress Sheila Sim in 1945. In 2004, the couple’s daughter, 49-year-old Jane Holland, as well as her mother-in-law, also named Jane, and Attenborough’s 15-year-old granddaughter Lucy, were killed when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Khao Lak, Thailand, where they were holidaying.
- He 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 for over a year with his wife.
Sources: Reuters/The Film Encyclopaedia/screenonline.org
Compiled by London Editorial Reference Desk; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Leslie Adler