Lord Richard Attenborough was a multitalented film industry presence, as well known for his directorial triumphs as his beloved on-screen performances.
In a career spanning six decades, Lord Attenborough won two Academy Awards, four BAFTA awards and four Golden Globes. He was also lucky enough to star in and direct a number of critically-acclaimed movies that helped define their genres and won scores of loyal fans around the world.
Here, we break down his six greatest performances in front of, and behind, the camera.
By far Attenborough’s greatest directorial achievement, this film chronicling the life of Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a success critically and in the box office, clinching eight Oscars and grossing over $100 million.
The film was Attenborough’s lifetime labour of love and it took him 20 years to gather the necessary funding. As director, he was responsible for more than 400,000 extras featured in the massive production.
His remarkable efforts earned him two Oscars, one for Best Director and another for Best Picture. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Director.
However, Attenborough remained humble about his achievement and instead chose to applaud another epic film from that year, E.T.
Speaking to BBC Radio in 2008, Attenborough said that Steven Speilberg’s popular alien hit should have won the Best Film Oscar over Gandhi.
“[E.T. was] an infinitely more creative and fundamental piece of cinema,” Attenborough said.
“[Gandhi was] a piece of narration rather than a piece of cinema, as such. E.T. depended absolutely on the concept of cinema, and I think Steven Spielberg … is a genius.”
Actor – Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
For younger viewers, Lord Attenborough will be most memorable as the mysterious, kindhearted “Kris Kringle” in this beloved 1994 children’s film.
Attenborough’s young co-star, former child actress Mara Wilson, shared her shock and sadness on Twitter following his death, and many others joined her in hailing him as “the best Santa ever”.
Sir Richard Attenborough was the only Santa Claus I ever believed in. A wonderful man. Still in shock right now. May he rest in peace.
— Mara Wilson (@MaraWritesStuff) August 24, 2014
Director – Shadowlands (1993)
Attenborough directed and produced this British biographical film about the relationship between Oxford novelist C.S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman.
Shadowlands won a BAFTA for Best British Film, along with two Oscars for Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Film critic Roger Ebert described the movie as “intelligent, moving and beautifully acted”.
“It understands that not everyone falls into love through the avenue of physical desire; that for some, the lust may be for another’s mind, for inner beauty.”
Actor – The Great Escape (1963)
Attenborough’s turn as mastermind Sqn Ldr Roger Bartlett RAF – also known as ‘Big X’ – in the American war film was the first to nab him global attention.
He joined the big leagues alongside Steve McQueen and James Garner and managed to hold his own in the adventure hit.
Actor – Jurassic Park (1993)
Attenborough came out of retirement thanks to the convincing power of Steven Spielberg, who managed to lure the actor out of a 15-year career break to star as the happy-go-lucky owner of the dinosaur park, John Hammond.
The film was a massive success, with its groundbreaking special effects ushering in a new era of blockbuster movies.
Actor – Brighton Rock (1944)
Attenborough stormed the West End stage in 1944 as young psychopathic gang leader Pinkie and was promptly recast in the role in the 1947 film adaptation.
His gripping performance as the gangster lead to Attenborough being typecast as a young thug for the next few years in films like Dancing with Crime in 1947 and Boys in Brown in 1949.
He later ditched the label, but Pinkie remains one of his most noteworthy roles of all time.
His acting in “Brighton Rock” was brilliant, his directing of “Gandhi” was stunning – Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 24, 2014