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Richard Attenborough Dies

Richard Attenborough
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Legendary actor/director Sir Richard Attenborough died Sunday at age 90.

The Seattle Times reported that the filmmaker had been in a nursing home for the last few years, since he suffered a fall in 2008. But, according to the Los Angeles Times, no official cause of death has been announced.

Attenborough was born in Cambridge, England and graduated from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1942. He also served in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

From there, he began acting in such films as In Which We Serve (1942) and Brighton Rock (1947). His acting career was in full swing by the 1960s, with appearances in such movies as The Great Escape (1963), The Sand Pebbles (1966) and Doctor Doolittle (1967).

At the same time, however, Attenborough began turning his energies to directing. His debut in that field came with the 1969 film version of the musical Oh! What a Lovely War. Later directing efforts included A Bridge Too Far (1977), Cry Freedom (1987) and Shadowlands (1993).

But Attenborough’s most acclaimed directing work came with Gandhi (1982), a film which chronicled Mohandas Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence from England during the 20th Century until his assassination in 1948. The movie, which Attenborough spent 20 years attempting to bring to the screen, won him Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Director, as well as Best Actor for Ben Kingsley’s performance in the title role, in addition to Oscars for its Screenplay, Costume Design, Editing, Cinematography and Art Direction.

“Every career decision I've made since then has been tempered by my love affair with this one project,” Attenborough said in 1981. “I've given up 40 acting roles and a dozen directing assignments to pursue it.”

The director reportedly mortgaged his home and sold some of his belongings in order to keep the movie going.

Another notable film Attenborough directed was Chaplin (1992), which chronicled the life of legendary film star Charlie Chaplin, played in the movie by Robert Downey Jr., who won an Oscar nomination for his performance.

Attenborough was first drawn to acting when he saw Chaplin’s movie The Gold Rush (1925).

“I was devastated by the skills of an actor who could make you laugh and cry at the same time,” Attenborough said at the time of Chaplin’s release.

In the 1990s, Attenborough was introduced to a new generation of fans when he portrayed John Hammond, the creator of the title theme park in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993). Attenborough reprised the role in the sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), also directed by Spielberg.

Attenborough, who was knighted in 1976, was also the chairman of the British Film Institute from 1981 to 1992.

He unofficially retired from show business following a stroke in 2008.

Tragically, he lost his daughter Jane Holland and his granddaughter Lucy when a tsunami hit Thailand in 2004. Attenborough was vacationing with both of them in the country at that time.

Attenborough leaves behind his wife Sheila Sim (whom he married in 1945), his theater director son Michael and his actress daughter Charlotte.

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