Lord Richard Attenborough was born in Cambridge, England, the son of Mary (née Clegg), a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and Frederick Levi Attenborough, a scholar and academic administrator who was a don at Emmanuel College and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law. Attenborough was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
His film career began with a role as a deserting sailor in In Which We Serve (1942), a part that contributed to his being typecast for many years as a coward in films like Dulcimer Street (1948), Operation Disaster (1950) and his breakthrough role as a psychopathic young gangster in the film adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, Brighton Rock (1947). During World War II Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force.
He worked prolifically in British films for the next 30 years, and in the 1950s appeared in several successful comedies for John Boulting and Roy Boulting, including Private's Progress (1956) and I'm All Right Jack (1959). Early in his stage career, Attenborough starred in the London West End production of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap", which went on to become one of the world's longest-running stage productions. Both he and his wife were among the original cast members of the production, which opened in 1952 and (as of 2007) is still running.
In the 1960s he expanded his range of character roles in films such as Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Guns at Batasi (1964), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the regimental Sergeant Major. He appeared in the ensemble cast of The Great Escape (1963), as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett ("Big X"), the head of the escape committee.
In 1967 and 1968 he won back-to-back Golden Globe Awards in the category of Best Supporting Actor, the first time for The Sand Pebbles (1966) starring Steve McQueen, and the second time for Doctor Dolittle (1967) starring Rex Harrison. He would win another Golden Globe for Best Director, for Gandhi (1982), in 1983. Six years prior to "Gandhi" he played the ruthless Gen. Outram in Indian director Satyajit Ray's period piece The Chess Players (1977). He has never been nominated for an Academy Award in an acting category.
He took no acting roles following his appearance in Otto Preminger's The Human Factor (1979) until his appearance as the eccentric developer John Hammond in 'Steven Spielberg (I)''s Jurassic Park (1993). The following year he starred as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1994), a remake of the 1947 classic. Since then he has made occasional appearances in supporting roles including the historical drama Elizabeth (1998) as Sir William Cecil.
In the late 1950s Attenborough formed a production company, Beaver Films, with Bryan Forbes and began to build a profile as a producer on projects including The League of Gentlemen (1960), The Angry Silence (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961), also appearing in the first two of these as an actor.
His feature film directorial debut was the all-star screen version of the hit musical Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), and his acting appearances became more sporadic - the most notable being his portrayal of serial killer John Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971). He later directed two epic period films: Y_oung Winston (1972)_, based on the early life of 'Winston Churchill', and A Bridge Too Far (1977), an all-star account of Operation Market Garden in World War II. He won the 1982 Academy Award for Directing for his historical epic "Gandhi", a project he had been attempting to get made for many years. As the film's producer, he also won the Academy Award for Best Picture. His most recent films as director and producer include Chaplin (1992) starring Robert Downey Jr. as Charles Chaplin and Shadowlands (1993), based on the relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. Both films starred 'Anthony Hopkins (I)', who also appeared in three other films for Attenborough: "Young Winston", "A Bridge Too Far" and the thriller Magic (1978).
Attenborough also directed the screen version of the hit Broadway musical :A Chorus Line" (A Chorus Line (1985)) and the apartheid drama Cry Freedom (1987), based on the experiences of Donald Woods. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for both films. His most recent film as director was another biographical film, Grey Owl (1999), starring Pierce Brosnan.
Attenborough is the President of RADA, Chairman of Capital Radio, President of BAFTA, President of the Gandhi Foundation, and President of the British National Film and Television School. He is also a vice patron of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund.
He is also the patron of the UWC movement (United World Colleges), whereby he continually contributes greatly to the colleges that are part of the organization. He has frequented the United World College of Southern Africa(UWCSA) Waterford Kamhlaba. His wife and he founded the Richard and Sheila Attenborough Visual Arts Center. He also founded the Jane Holland Creative Center for Learning at Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland in memory of his daughter who died in the Tsunami on Boxing day, 2004. He passionately believes in education, primarily education that does not judge upon color, race, creed or religion. His attachment to Waterford is his passion for non-racial education, which were the grounds on which Waterford Kamhlaba was founded. Waterford was one of his inspirations for directing "Cry Freedom",based on the life of Steve Biko.
He was elected to the post of Chancellor of the University of Sussex on 20 March 1998, replacing the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. A lifelong supporter of Chelsea Football Club, Attenborough served as a director of the club from 1969-1982 and since 1993 has held the honorary position of Life Vice President. He is also the head of the consortium "Dragon International", which is constructing a film and television studio complex in Llanilid, Wales, often referred to as "Valleywood".
In 1967 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He was knighted in 1976 and in 1993 he was made a life peer as Baron Attenborough, of Richmond-upon-Thames in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
On 13 July 2006 Attenborough and his brother David Attenborough were awarded the titles of Distinguished Honorary Fellows of the University of Leicester "in recognition of a record of continuing distinguished service to the University". Lord Attenborough is also listed as an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University For his continued efforts to film making.
Attenborough has been married to English actress Sheila Sim since 1945. They had three children. In December 2004 his elder daughter, Jane Holland, as well as her daughter Lucy and her mother-in-law, also named Jane, were killed in the tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake. A memorial service was held on 8 March 2005, and Attenborough read a lesson at the national memorial service on 11 May 2005. His grandson Samuel Holland and granddaughter Alice Holland also read in the service.
Attenborough's father was principal of University College, Leicester, now the city's university. This has resulted in a long association with the university, with Lord Attenborough a patron. A commemorative plaque was placed in the floor of Richmond Parish Church. The university's Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts, which opened in 1997, is named in his Honor.
His son, Michael Attenborough, is also a director. He has two younger brothers, the famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough and John Attenborough, who has made a career in the motor trade.
He has collected Pablo Picasso ceramics since the 1950s. More than 100 items went on display at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester in 2007; the exhibition is dedicated to his family members lost in the tsunami.
|Sheila Sim||(22 January 1945 - present) 3 children|
Anthony Hopkins acts in almost all of his directed films
Frequently directs films about the lives of real-life individuals
It was his life ambition to direct Gandhi (1982).
Philosophies include believing in content as opposed to style and sincerity rather than intelligence.
He reprised his Jurassic Park (1993) character, John Hammond, for Universal Studio's Jurassic Park: The Ride attraction. He appears in a short film at the beginning of the ride telling you that the NEW Jurassic Park (the ride you're on) is completely safe, and that there will never be another incident like that at Costa Rica in 1993.
1952: Was the first to star in Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap", now the longest-running play in the world.
Has two brothers, naturalist/presenter David Attenborough, and John Attenborough. Also, during World War Two, his parents adopted two German Jewish girls, who had been brought to Britain as part of the Kindertransport.
Appointed a CBE in 1967, knighted in 1976 and created a life peer in 1993.
2002-: Third president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
1971-94: Vice-president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
1990: Freeman of the City of Leicester, England.
1993: Fellow of King's College, London.
Created an honorary D.Litt of the Universities of Leicester, Kent and Sussex in 1970, 1981 and 1987 respectively.
12/02: Said he would go back on his claim to never appear in front of the camera again for one role only: that of Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.
Brother-in-law of actor Gerald Sim
Former father-in-law of actress Jane Seymour
Life Vice-President of Chelsea Football Club
2003: Was made President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), a role that had been vacant since the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
2003: Was awarded the Patricia Rothermere Award for his lifelong service to theatre at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
He was trained at RADA (The Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Arts), where he later became Chairman.
Often casts Anthony Hopkins.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 78-84. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Steven Spielberg has named him as an influence.
12/26/04: Members of his family - daughter Jane, son-in-law Michael Holland, grandchildren Sam, Lucy and Alice and Michael's mother Jane - were holidaying in Phuket, Thailand, when the area was hit by the South Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. Lord Attenborough lost his daughter, her mother-in-law and his 14-year-old granddaughter Lucy in the tragedy. His elder granddaughter, 17-year-old Alice, was seriously injured and his son-in-law and grandson survived unscathed.
Has been involved in some form with the University of Sussex since 1970; he was elected Chancellor of the University on March 20, 1998, replacing the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, who had held that post since 1985.
9/05: Attended the funeral of British film producer Lord John Brabourne.
He was a close friend of the English actor Sir John Mills for many years, and gave the eulogy at his funeral in April 2005.
5/11/05: Gave a reading at a national British memorial service for the victims of the South Asian tsunami. He lost three members of his family in the tragedy.
Godfather of Emma Forbes.
1978: Officially retired from acting. He agreed to make a return to acting in Jurassic Park (1993), saying he was a huge admirer of Steven Spielberg and always felt bad that Gandhi (1982) had won the best picture award instead of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).. Spielberg had previously wanted to cast him as Tootles in Hook (1991)_, however, he'd been busy directing Chaplin (1992)_ at the time.
Received an honorary doctorate from Dickinson College, Pennsylvania.
In 2008 the UK Regional Critics' Film Awards were renamed The Richard Attenborough Film Awards, in his honour.
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
Was hospitalised in August 2008 when his heart stopped beating for a time, and again in December 2008 when he went into a coma for several days after suffering a fall.
Is one of 7 directors to win the Golden Globe, Director's Guild, BAFTA, and Oscar for the same movie, winning for Gandhi (1982). The other directors to achieve this are Mike Nichols for The Graduate (1967), Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Oliver Stone for Platoon (1986), Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List (1993), Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
The last veteran of World War II to win an Oscar for Best Director.
Before entrusting post-production on Jurassic Park (1993) to his friend George Lucas, Steven Spielberg thought he would have to divide his time between this and directing Schindler's List (1993). Spielberg at one point asked Attenborough, who had just appeared in Jurassic Park (1993), to serve as assistant director on Schindler's List (1993). This would have reunited Attenborough with Ben Kingsley, whom he directed in Gandhi (1982), which defeated E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) for Best Picture and Best Director. Attenborough's services turned out to be unnecessary, but he is not without his own connection to the material. While Attenborough is not himself Jewish, he does have two Jewish sisters: after World War II, his parents adopted two little girls whose parents had died in the Holocaust.
According to his brother David Attenborough, Richard is no longer able to walk and gets about in a wheelchair. However, he still has all his other faculties about him, and is still as gregarious as ever.
He was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, and he coached her privately to help her become more confident about speaking in public in the early years of her marriage. She always called him "Dickie".
At my age the only problem is with remembering names. When I call everyone "darling", it has damn all to do with passionately adoring them, but I know I'm safe calling them that. Although, of course, I adore them, too.
I want to make a film about Tom Paine. I think Tom Paine is one of the greatest men that's ever lived. He lived in the 18th century, as you all know, he was an Englishman who was involved in the writing of American Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, the French Constitution, wrote the great book called The Rights of Man - commercial over! But nobody wants to make it. Nobody. Because it's politics, it's period, it doesn't have any of the things that now are supposedly our prerequisites to commercial success. I'm going to make it, provided I'll stand on my feet, but it's not easy, any more than Gandhi (1982) was, any more than Cry Freedom (1987) was, et cetera. Those movies are very difficult to make, and if you're not prepared or interested in science fiction, which in terms of movies I'm not, if you're not interested in terms of all the CGI stuff that you can now do in the cinema which is quite remarkable compared to the time that I was making movies, 30, 40, 50 years ago, then if you're not prepared to indulge in the pornography of violence or overt sexual matter, it's very, very difficult. It is hard to raise the money. And so in answer to your question, I don't think it's any easier. It wasn't easy then and I don't think it's become any easier. What I am sad about is that there is now, in America, no equivalent to the art circuit. In other words, if you - the cost of promoting movies, the advertising and promotion of a movie, the budget is almost as large as the cost of the movie. And these huge blockbusters that you see have tens and hundreds of millions of pounds and dollars spent promoting them. And if you don't have something which they believe will reach an enormous audience, then they won't go for it. And so you fall out. And there are companies in the UK, terrific companies, young companies, who made, you know, whether it be Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) or whatever, or Trainspotting (1996) or whatever, who are having a go, but it is not any easier, in fact I think it's even probably more difficult than it was when Forbesy (Bryan Forbes) and I were starting, which is a pity.
Diana (Diana Hawkins) and I went to see ET in Los Angeles shortly before all the awards and we used language, when we came out, to the extent of saying 'we have no chance - ET should and will walk away with it'. Without the initial premise of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the film would be nothing. Therefore it's a narrative film but it's a piece of narration rather than a piece of cinema, as such. ET depended absolutely on the concept of cinema and I think that Steven Spielberg, who I'm very fond of, is a genius. I think ET is a quite extraordinary piece of cinema. (On the competition between Gandhi (1982) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) at the 1983 Academy Awards)
I hate and despise the pornography of violence. I don't believe that we can totally excuse ourselves from that situation. I believe that both cinema and film to a certain extent have encouraged it.
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