Richard Attenborough

The brother of broadcaster Sir David Attenborough won an Academy Award for directing which 1982 film?

And the answer: Gandhi.

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery. 

Born in 1923, actor and director Richard Attenborough had a lengthy and award-winning career. His best known roles include Big X in The Great Escape, John Hammond in Jurassic Park, and Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. Outside of the film industry, he also served as Life President of the Chelsea Football Club.

Richard Attenborough's lifetime in front of and behind the camera leaves behind a vast legacy of his contributions British and international culture alike. The actor and director began his professional life in the Royal Air Force, where he entered the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit. It was there that Attenborough appeared in the propaganda film Journey Together and formed the basis for a future of military features, as well as mainstream films.

In 1949, Attenborough was voted the sixth most popular British actor at the box office after starring in Brian Desmond Hurst's The Hundred Pound Window (1944). However, Attenborough's 1942 role in In Which We Serve, where he portrays a sailor who deserts his post, led to the actor being type-cast as a British criminal for many years following. Such films include London Belongs to Me (1948), Morning Departure (1950), and his breakthrough role as Pinkie Brown in the film adaptation of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock (1947).

In the late 1950s, Attenborough formed a production company called Beaver Films, and began to build his profile as a producer. His film Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) won him his first BAFTA award, while his historical epic Gandhi – a project some 18 years in the making – won him several Oscars and Golden Globes.

Alongside his brother David, Richard Attenborough leaves behind a vast body of work that continues to play an integral part in British cultural life. Learn more about the five movies the BBC deems his best in this article (film clips included!).


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