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Richard Attenborough Poster

Biography

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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 29 August 1923Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, UK
Date of Death 24 August 2014Northwood, Hillingdon, London, England, UK
Birth NameRichard Samuel Attenborough
Nickname Dickie, Bunter.
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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'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: Young 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 (1982), 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, 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 (1987), 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 on 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: ta (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Sheila Sim (22 January 1945 - 24 August 2014) (his death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (4)

Frequently films movies about former British colonies. Examples iclude India (Gandhi (1982)), South Africa (Cry Freedom (1987)), Canada (Grey Owl (1999))
Frequently directs films about the lives of real-life individuals
Warm, grandfatherly persona
Calmly rich voice

Trivia (48)

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.
2004: 57 years after he starred in Brighton Rock (1947), his son Michael Attenborough directed a musical version of Graham Greene's novel.
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 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.
Father, with Sheila Sim of son, director Michael Attenborough, and daughters, Jane Attenborough and actress Charlotte Attenborough.
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.
Directed 4 different performers in Oscar-nominated performances: Ben Kingsley, Denzel Washington, Robert Downey Jr. and Debra Winger. Kingsley won an Oscar for his performance in Gandhi (1982).
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.
Originally considered for the role of Harry in The Ladykillers (1955) by director Alexander Mackendrick. The role eventually went to Peter Sellers.
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.
Along with Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Robert Redford one of six actors to win an Academy Award for "Best Director".
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 8 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), Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity (2013).
The last veteran of World War II to win an Oscar for Best Director.
Father-in-law of Karen Lewis and Graham Sinclair.
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, Before his death, Richard was no longer able to walk and gets about in a wheelchair. However, he still had all his other faculties about him, and was 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".
To date, he is the only performer to win two Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor but not even be nominated for a corresponding Oscar.
He made a cameo appearance as a lunatic wearing glasses in A Bridge Too Far (1977). This was his only acting role in a film that he directed.
He died in Denville Hall care home in Northwood, London, on August 23, 2014, at lunchtime, five days before 91st birthday. He moved into the care home because of his failing health, in March 2013. His wife, Sheila, had been based there since June 2012.
Considered for Fallada,Bukovsky, Sir Percy and Dr.Armstong in Lifeforce.

Personal Quotes (28)

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 E.T. 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 - E.T. 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. E.T. depended absolutely on the concept of cinema and I think that Steven Spielberg, who I'm very fond of, is a genius. I think E.T. 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.
[on Kevin Kline] A complex character, a total chameleon - and an engaging and bewitching man. He can charm the birds off the trees, but he is also terribly shy.
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.
I was on my own union council for twenty-odd years.
Well, you cannot think of cinema now, and you cannot think of cinema in the UK and not place Chaplin in the most extraordinary elevated context, if there can be such a thing, in that he was a genius, he was unique.
There's nothing more important in making movies than the screenplay.
I just love biography, and I'm fascinated by people who have shifted our destinies or our points of view.
I think it is obscene that we should believe that we are entitled to end somebody's life, no matter what that person has supposedly done or not done.
And I believe we need heroes, I believe we need certain people who we can measure our own shortcomings by.
I think Tom Paine is one of the greatest men that's ever lived.
Well, I think In Love and War, which had a wonderful performance by Sandy, Sandra Bullock, who the authorities and, the supposed authorities, in cinema didn't want to know about.
Pier Angeli was in the movie called Sea of Sand that Guy Green directed where this idea came up.
I can't write, I can't paint, I don't compose.
I do not have a brain that I long for in dealing with matters of which I am ignorant, that don't come within my ken and a rationale, a reason, and argument and so on, and I can't do that and I'm not in that bracket at all.
If you've ever seen the film In Which We Serve, but it was about a destroyer in the Mediterranean.
I'm a passionate trade unionist.
I came from a family who believed in, in quotes, the Rights of Man, who believed that in order to justify the sort of luxurious life that the majority of us have, related to the whole world, that you had to do something.
David has asked me, a number of people have asked me and said, What performance do you like best or what's the best film you've made and so on and I don't really have any hesitation that the film I'm least embarrassed by and ashamed of or uneasy about is Shadowlands.
And there are certain things, and they are evident, obviously, without being boring about it, but I mean obviously, the two evident and easy ones being Gandhi and Cry Freedom, there are things which I do care about very much and which I would like to stand up and be counted.
What I am sad about is that there is now, in America, no equivalent to the art circuit.
I don't read a great deal of fiction, to my shame, other than the classics.
I am passionately opposed to capital punishment, and I have been all my life.
I believe in trade unionism, and I believe in democracy, in democratic trade unionism.
I do care about style. I do care, but I only care about style that serves the subject.
I prefer fact to fiction.

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