LONDON – Acclaimed actor and Oscar-winning director Richard Attenborough, whose film career on both sides of the camera spanned 60 years, has died. He was 90.
The actor’s son, Michael Attenborough, told the BBC that his father died Sunday. He had been in poor health for some time. According to the BBC, Attenborough had been in a wheelchair since falling down stairs six years ago.
Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement calling Attenborough “one of the greats of cinema.”
“His acting in ‘Brighton Rock’ was brilliant, his directing of ‘Gandhi’ was stunning,” Cameron said.
Attenborough won an Academy Award for best director with 1982’s “Gandhi,” which starred Ben Kingsley. It marked just one of many highlights of a distinguished career as actor and director.
He appeared in a many major Hollywood films, directed a series of movies and was known for his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and other humanitarian causes.
As a director, Attenborough made several successful movies, from “Oh What a Lovely War” in 1969 to “Chaplin” and “Shadowlands” in the 1990s. But his greatest success was “Gandhi,” a film that was 20 years in the planning and won eight Oscars, including best picture.
The generation that was introduced to Attenborough as an avuncular veteran actor in the 1990s — when he played the failed theme park developer in “Jurassic Park” and Kris Kringle in a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” — may not have appreciated his dramatic range.
A small, energetic man with a round face that remained boyish even in old age, he was perfectly cast at the start of his career as the young sailor or airman of British movies during and after World War II.
In his 1942 film debut as a terrified warship’s crewman in “In Which We Serve,” a 19-year-old Attenborough made a small part into one of the most memorable roles in the movie, which won the Best Picture Oscar.
In 1947, Attenborough gave one of the best performances of his career as the menacing teenage thug Pinkie in “Brighton Rock,” the film version of Graham Greene’s novel.
He is survived by his wife, Sheila Sim, their son and a daughter.
The family is expected to make a full statement on Monday.