Oscar-winning filmmaker and actor Richard Attenborough, who delighted cinema audiences across some six decades, has died, according to his son. He was 90 years old.
According to the BBC, Attenborough had been in a nursing home with his wife for a number of years, and he had been bound to a wheelchair following a fall six years ago.
Attenborough began his career in front of the camera, drawing raves for work in films like John Boulting's “Brighton Rock” in 1947, John Sturges' “The Great Escape” and Robert Wise's “The Sand Pebbles” opposite Steve McQueen, as well as Richard Fleischer's Oscar-nominated “Doctor Dolittle” opposite Rex Harrison.
He transitioned to directing with ease with the Golden Globe-winning “Oh! What a Lovely War” in 1969 and developed a keen interest in history and biopics with his work. More accolades came for the Winston Churchill early years tale “Young Winston” in 1972, star-studded World War II epic “A Bridge Too Far” in 1977 and the 1978 horror/thriller “Magic,” which did a lot to ignite actor Anthony Hopkins' potential as a leading man.
It was, however, a 1982 biopic centered on the life of Indian nationalist leader and legend Mahatma Gandhi that would come to be perhaps the defining chapter in Attenborough's career. The film won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and, for a rising Ben Kingsley, Best Actor. It was nominated for three more besides and instantly became an iconic cinematic achievement.
Attenborough continued with films like Broadway adaption “A Chorus Line” and South Africa drama “Cry Freedom” throughout the 1980s. He guided actor Robert Downey Jr. to a first-ever Oscar nomination in 1992's “Chaplin,” about the legendary silent film pioneer, and reunited with Hopkins to showcase the life of author C.S. Lewis in “Shadowlands” the very next year.
Indeed, Attenborough's career was rather dominated by biographical dramas. In addition to Churchill, Gandhi, Chaplin and Lewis, he also told the stories of author Ernest Hemingway (1996's “In Love and War”) and fur trapper Archie Grey Owl (1999's “Grey Owl”). And during the 1990s, he managed to tap a whole new audience – youngsters – with his portrayal of entrepreneur John Hammond in Steve Spielberg's “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Attenborough in fact found room to work in front of the camera throughout his career as a filmmaker, whether in Kenneth Branagh's “Hamlet” or as Kris Kringle in the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
His final film was 2007's “Closing the Ring” with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer.