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Richard Attenborough (Photo: REX/Geoffrey Swaine)

Richard Attenborough dies

Published August 26, 2014

Legendary screen actor Richard Attenborough had died at the age of 90. The hugely respected performer, writer and director passed away on 24 August.

Born in 1923 in Cambridge, Attenborough began acting at the age of 12-years-old and studied the craft at the prestigious acting school RADA, where he remained President until his death.

His illustrious career spanning six decades began on stage, with the actor appearing in the original cast of The Mousetrap. He appeared in the West End’s long-running thriller alongside his wife Sheila Sim, whom he had been married to since 1945.

Other stage credits included Brighton Rock. Attenborough later famously starred as gangster Pinkie Brown in the film adaptation. Amongst his many other high profile film appearances were The Great Escape, Doctor Dolittle, Jurassic Park and Miracle On 34th Street.

Equally well known for his role behind the camera, Attenborough made his directorial debut in 1969 with his screen adaptation of the stage hit Oh, What A Lovely War. He went on to famously win Oscar and Golden Globe awards for his roles directing and producing 1982’s Gandhi. Subsequent directing credits included A Chorus Line, Shadowlands and, most recently, 2006’s Closing The Ring.

Throughout his incredible career, Attenborough worked with an almost endless list of esteemed actors, directors and writers, many of whom led the outpour of tributes this bank holiday weekend.

Jurassic Park director Steven Spielberg described the much-loved Attenborough as a “dear friend”, saying: “I am standing in an endless line of those who completely adored him.” Actress Mia Farrow tweeted: “Richard Attenborough was the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with”, while Sir Ben Kingley said: “When he gave me the part of Gandhi it was with great grace and joy. He placed in me an absolute trust and in turn I placed an absolute trust in him and grew to love him.”

Tributes also came from the many organisations that Attenborough supported over his lifetime, which included the Labour Party and many theatre institutions including Mousetrap Theatre Projects, Equity, Chickenshed and the Young Vic.

He remained Patron of his local theatre, Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre, until his death. Founder and former Artistic Director Sam Walters released a moving statement today thanking Attenborough for his support, saying: “The death of Richard Attenborough is of course a loss that goes way beyond the community of Richmond upon Thames, where he lived, and the small Orange Tree Theatre for which he, and his wife Sheila, did so much. His death is a loss to all who were privileged to know him and indeed a loss to the world… Unlike many an Englishman, Richard wore his heart on his sleeve and his care, concern and enthusiasm were there for all to see. And I loved him for it.”

Attenborough leaves behind Sim, his wife of almost 70 years, as well as his two surviving children, theatre director Michael and actor Charlotte. The family tragically lost oldest daughter Jane Holland in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

"Richard wore his heart on his sleeve and his care, concern and enthusiasm were there for all to see. And I loved him for it.”