Richard Attenborough, the acclaimed British actor and director who made the Oscar-winning epic Gandhi, died on Sunday at the age of 90. His son shared the news with the BBC, which reports that Attenborough had been in poor health for many years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the beloved filmmaker in a Tweet on Sunday afternoon. “His acting in ‘Brighton Rock’ was brilliant, his directing of ‘Gandhi’ was stunning – Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema.”
Attenborough was born in 1923 in Cambridge, England and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. His first screen acting role came at the age of 19 in the David Lean-Noel Coward production In Which We Serve, and he made his breakthrough five years later playing the sadistic teenaged gangster at the heart of Brighton Rock in 1947. His acting life, which encompassed more than 70 films, continued into the early 2000s, with notable roles in Elizabeth and the Jurassic Park franchise.
Attenborough began his directing career in 1969 with Oh! What a Lovely War and he went on to helm a dozen movies, including A Chorus Line, Cry Freedom, Chaplin, Shadowlands and, most recently, the 2007 World War II drama Closing the Ring. Denzel Washington, Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Hopkins all garnered Oscar nominations under his direction.
Attenborough spent 20 years and most of his life’s savings on his quest to bring the story of Mohandas K. Gandhi to the big screen. After finally reaching completion in 1982, the film racked up eight Oscars, including a Best Actor prize for its star, Ben Kingsley, and Best Picture and Best Director for Attenborough. It also won Attenborough the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.
“I want cinema to contribute to argument, to antagonism, to anger, whatever, but always related to human affairs and human decency,” he once told Sight and Sound magazine.