It’s been a sad month all round for those of us who grew up watching films in the 90’s. First there was the immensely distressing news of Robin William’s suicide, who had mesmerised to a whole new generation in films like Aladdin, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Now, with equal sadness, news yesterday broke of the death of Richard Attenborough, star of Jurassic Park as well as classics such as The Great Escape and Brighton Rock, and equally lauded for his work as a director on Gandhi, Oh! What a Lovely War and Chaplin.
Stately and ambiguous in his later years, Baron Attenborough, CBE began his career, which eventually conquered Hollywood, as a classic British character actor – memorably hitting the limelight playing Pinky in Brighton Rock. This was later followed by his equally timeless austere portrayal of Squadron Leader Bartlett in 1963’s The Great Escape.
Most memorable, however, for latter generations was his role in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jurassic Park in which he played John Hammond, the founder and CEO of bioengineering company InGen, who has created a theme park called Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar, an island near Costa Rica, and populated it with cloned dinosaurs. The film was a huge box office success that went on to gross over $1,000,000,000 at the box office, as well as winning 20 awards including 3 Academy Awards.
His major work as a director was the 3-hour long historical epic Gandhi, dramatising the life of the eponymous Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United Kingdom and its rule during the 20th century. Attenborough won both Best Director and Best Film for Gandhi at the 1982 Academy Awards. Throughout his career he also won four BAFTA Awards and four Golden Globe Awards.
Many have payed tribute to Attenborough including the Prime Minister David Cameron, who tweeted: “His acting in Brighton Rock was brilliant, his directing of Gandhi was stunning – Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema.” Actress Mia Farrow tweeted: “Richard Attenborough was the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with. A Prince. RIP ‘Pa’ – and thank you.” Former Bond Sir Roger Moore said he was “such a wonderful and talented man”.
It is a certainty that his great talent is a sad loss for the British film industry.