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Richard Attenborough: Versatile Actor Turned ‘Gandhi’ Director

BAFTA Official After Show Party - StudioRichard Attenborough had a pretty good career as a character actor. From the 1940s to the mid-2000s, he appeared in nearly 80 films, including the 1963 World War II epic The Great Escape, in which he played the mastermind of a daring flight from a Nazi prison camp, to 1992’s Jurassic Park, in which he played bioengineering genius John Hammond, the owner of an ill-fated theme park stocked with cloned dinosaurs.

But Attenborough, who died on Aug. 24 at age 90 in London, achieved greater fame as the director and producer of Gandhi, the 1982 biopic about the Indian leader who defeated the British empire by preaching nonviolent resistance. Attenborough spent more than 20 years struggling to make a film about a subject that the big studios felt was not sufficiently commercial. He also daringly resisted pressure to cast an established star such as Richard Burton in the title role, and instead opted for Ben Kingsley, a British-Indian Shakespearean stage actor who was an unknown to movie audiences. In the ultimate test, Attenborough sank most of his life savings into the film to help cover its $22 million cost.

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In the end, Attenborough’s persistence was vindicated. While Gandhi received mixed reactions from critics, it was a box-office hit and earned 11 Oscar nominations, winning eight – including Best Picture, Best Actor for Kingsley, and Best Director for Attenborough. Here is one of the film’s most famous scenes, in which Gandhi stages his first protest, despite having been beaten badly by colonial authorities. YouTube Preview Image

Here are some other facts about Attenborough and his distinguished career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s a scene from Jurassic Park, in which Attenborough’s character is present at the hatching of his dinosaurs. YouTube Preview Image

 

Photo: BAFTA/Getty Images

 

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