Actor and director Richard Attenborough dies aged 90

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Richard AttenboroughImage source, AP
Image caption,
Lord Attenborough, seen here in 2008, was among Britain's best-known actors

Oscar-winning British film director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90, his son has said.

Lord Attenborough was one of Britain's leading actors, before becoming a highly successful director.

In a career that spanned six decades, he appeared in films including Brighton Rock, World War Two prisoner of war thriller The Great Escape and later in dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park.

As a director he was perhaps best known for Gandhi, which won him two Oscars.

Sir Ben Kingsley, who played the title role, said he would "miss him dearly".

"Richard Attenborough trusted me with the crucial and central task of bringing to life a dream it took him 20 years to bring to fruition.

"When he gave me the part of Gandhi it was with great grace and joy. He placed in me an absolute trust and in turn I placed an absolute trust in him and grew to love him."

Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg said Lord Attenborough was passionate about everything in his life.

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Steven Spielberg (l) directed Lord Attenborough in 1993's Jurassic Park

"He made a gift to the world with his emotional epic Gandhi and he was the perfect ringmaster to bring the dinosaurs back to life as John Hammond in Jurassic Park," he said.

"He was a dear friend and I am standing in an endless line of those who completely adored him."

Lord Attenborough had been in a nursing home with his wife for a number of years, BBC arts editor Will Gompertz said.

He had also been in a wheelchair since falling down stairs six years ago, our correspondent added.

His son told the BBC that Lord Attenborough died at lunchtime on Sunday.

'Huge impact'

Paying tribute, Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "His acting in "Brighton Rock" was brilliant, his directing of "Gandhi" was stunning - Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema."

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Jurassic Park actress Ariana Richards tells 5 live: 'He was a light in my life'

Actress Mia Farrow tweeted: "Richard Attenborough was the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with. A Prince. RIP 'Pa' - and thank you."

Former Channel 4 and BBC executive Lord Grade said Lord Attenborough had "phenomenal" energy and compassion.

"Dickie was essentially a man who put much more in than he ever took out of the industry," he said.

He also said Lord Attenborough had "huge authority", recalling a meeting in which he "banged the desk" and "frightened the life" out of then home secretary Douglas Hurd and a group of civil servants.

Image source, Getty Images
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Lord Attenborough, pictured with brother David, attracted wide praise on social media on Sunday night
Image source, Getty Images
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Among his most celebrated roles was his performance as gangster Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock

British Film Institute chief executive Amanda Nevill said Lord Attenborough was a "born communicator" both through film and in person.

"He was a man of huge warmth and integrity but always a man with a cause, I think somebody who really understood that film was such a powerful tool that could be used to influence and capture hearts and change the world," she said.

'Vocal campaigner'

Chris Hewitt from Empire Magazine told BBC News Lord Attenborough had a "huge impact" on cinema, describing him as a "universally beloved" figure.

Tribute was paid to the Labour peer from his party.

"Lord Attenborough made an enormous contribution to our country and to the film industry both as an actor and a director. His films will be loved for generations to come," it said.

"He believed passionately in social justice and the Labour Party and was a vocal campaigner against apartheid. He will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Richard Attenborough - selected filmography

As actor:

  • In which we serve - 1942
  • Brighton Rock - 1947
  • The League of Gentlemen - 1960
  • The Great Escape - 1963
  • Doctor Dolittle - 1967
  • 10 Rillington Place - 1971
  • Jurassic Park - 1993
  • Miracle on 34th Street - 1994
  • Elizabeth - 1998

As director:

  • Young Winston - 1972
  • Gandhi - 1982
  • A Chorus Line - 1985
  • Cry Freedom - 1987
  • Chaplin - 1992
  • Shadowlands - 1993
  • In Love and War - 1996
  • Grey Owl - 1999


Lord Attenborough was also a life president of Chelsea Football Club, which said it was "deeply saddened" to learn of his death.

"He led a long and successful life and always found time for the things in life he loved most, one of which was Chelsea FC," the club said.

"His personality was woven into the tapestry of the club over seven decades. He was a consistent force for good at the club, even in dark times.

"He will be greatly missed, and the thoughts of everyone at Chelsea FC are with his family and friends at this sad time."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Richard Attenborough in 1983 with the two Oscars he won for his film Gandhi
Image source, EPA
Image caption,
He had been in a nursing home with his wife for a number of years

Along with his naturalist brother David, Lord Attenborough was one of Britain's best-known screen celebrities.

He was hailed for his 1947 chilling portrayal of teenage hoodlum and murderer Pinkie in Brighton Rock.

On stage he was a member of the original cast of Agatha Christie's long-running whodunnit, The Mousetrap.

In the 1960s, he was part of a star-studded cast in The Great Escape.

His greatest achievement as a director was the 1982 epic Gandhi, which collected eight Oscars.

Later in his acting life he starred in Jurassic Park in 1993, as the park's billionaire creator John Hammond.

Born in Cambridge in 1923, he started acting at the age of just 12, making his professional stage debut aged 18.

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

He married his wife, actress Sheila Sim, in 1945. His son Michael was born in 1949, followed by two daughters, Jane and Charlotte.

Michael is a theatre director and former artistic director of the Almeida Theatre in Islington, north London, and Charlotte is an actress.

His family faced tragedy in 2004 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.