Richard Attenborough: Veteran British actor and director dies, aged 90

Lord Attenborough had been in a nursing home with his wife for a number of years

The veteran British actor and film director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90.

He died at lunchtime on Sunday, his son told BBC News.

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

His best known films as an actor included Brighton Rock, The Great Escape and Jurassic Park. His director's CV included A Bridge Too Far, Gandhi, for which he won Academy Awards as director and producer, in 1982, and Cry Freedom, about the death of South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steven Biko.

His later films as director included Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr, and Shadowlands, an adaptation of the stage play treating the relationship between Narnia author CS Lewis and Joy Gresham.

 

The celebrated figure had been being cared for full-time by staff at a nursing home where he lived with his wife Sheila Sim, also 92, whom he married in 1945.

Earlier this year, his brother the television naturalist Sir David Attenborough, 86, said: “He is coming up to 90. He’s just not very well.”

Video: Richard Attenborough dies aged 90

In 2008, Lord Attenborough suffered a stroke that resulted in a coma lasting several days. He had been in a wheelchair following a fall at his home.

Tributes poured in for one of the greatest British film icons of his time.

Richard Attenborough plays marbles with some of the cast during a break from filming The Guinea Pig at Elstree Studios, April 1948 Richard Attenborough plays marbles with some of the cast during a break from filming The Guinea Pig at Elstree Studios, April 1948  

David Cameron said in a tweet: “His acting in ‘Brighton Rock’ was brilliant, his directing of ‘Gandhi’ was stunning - Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema.”

The MP, Diane Abbott, said: “Very sad to hear Richard Attenborough has died - a man of the establishment who was never afraid to challenge that same establishment.”

Attenborough made his name in films such Brighton Rock in 1947 and The Great Escape in 1963 and won a new tranche of fans in the dinosaur blockbuster Jurassic Park in 1993.

He was born in Cambridge, England, the son of Mary Clegg, who was one of the founders of the Marriage Guidance Council, and Frederick Levi Attenborough, a don at Emmanuel College.

Educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester, he then went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), of which he later became president.

His first screen role was as a cowardly sailor in the 1942 film In Which We Serve. During the war, he also served in the Royal Air Force.

But his breakthrough role was as the psychopathic young gangster, Pinkie Brown, in the 1947 film adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock.

On the stage, Attenborough and his wife both appeared in the original production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap”, which became one of the world’s longest-running theatre productions.

English actors and husband and wife, Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim Richard Attenborough with his wife, Sheila Sim

In the 1960s, he appeared in film such as Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Guns at Batasi.

He won a string of awards for his acting but his greatest success was as a director.

His 1982 film Gandhi won best picture and he was given the best director award.

After a breaking from acting, he returned to the screen in 1993 as dinosaur park developer John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

Attenborough also worked as the chairman of Capital Radio, the president of BAFTA, president of the Gandhi Foundation, and president of the British National Film and Television School.

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.

Former Cabinet minister Peter Hain paid tribute to the "brilliant actor and film director" who he also hailed as an "anti-Apartheid, Labour and Chelsea Football Club stalwart".

Lord Richard Attenborough, left, and his brother Sir David Attenborough pose outside the 'Richard Attenbororugh' Building at the University of Leicester. They were awarded the title of Distinguished Honorary Fellowships from the University of Leicester Lord Richard Attenborough, left, and his brother Sir David Attenborough pose outside the 'Richard Attenborough' Building at the University of Leicester. They were awarded the title of Distinguished Honorary Fellowships from the University of Leicester

He added on Twitter that it was "really sad news", referring to him as a "lovely man and friend".

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Labour's leader in the House of Lords, said she was "proud" that the actor was a Labour peer.

"Very sad to learn of death of Richard Attenborough, a fine man in every way. Proud that he was a Labour peer," she said.

Tragedy struck the star and his family when his elder daughter Jane and her daughter Lucy were killed in the South Asian tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004.

Read more: Richard Attenborough's most famous films
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own