LONDON – Acclaimed actor and Oscar-winning director Richard Attenborough, whose film career on both sides of the camera spanned 60 years, has died. He was 90.
The actor’s son, Michael Attenborough, told the BBC that his father died Sunday. He had been in poor health for some time.
Ben Kingsley, who shot to global fame for his performance as Mahatma Gandhi, recalled Attenborough’s passionate 20-year struggle to bring Gandhi’s story to the big screen. The film won eight Oscars, including best picture, best director for Attenborough and best actor for Kingsley.
“He placed in me an absolute trust and in turn I placed an absolute trust in him and grew to love him,” said Kingsley. “I along with millions of others whom he touched through his life and work will miss him dearly.”
With his abundant snow-white hair and beard, Attenborough was one of the most familiar faces on the British arts scene – universally known as “Dickie.”
He appeared in many major Hollywood films, directed a series of movies and was known for his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and other humanitarian causes.
As a director, Attenborough made several successful movies, from “Oh What a Lovely War” in 1969 to “Chaplin” and “Shadowlands” in the 1990s.
The generation that was introduced to Attenborough as an avuncular veteran actor in the 1990s – when he played the failed theme park developer in “Jurassic Park” and Kris Kringle in a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” – may not have appreciated his dramatic range.
In 1947, Attenborough gave one of the best performances of his career as the teenage thug Pinkie in “Brighton Rock,” the film version of Graham Greene’s novel. Attenborough’s baby face and air of menace combined to make it one of his most memorable roles.
By the mid-1970s, Attenborough had become a director who only occasionally acted.
Attenborough was often thought to be at his best when trying to coax the finest work from actors. “Gandhi” made a star of its little-known leading man, Kingsley, and Denzel Washington won an Oscar nomination for 1987’s “Cry Freedom.”