Lord Richard Attenborough died on Sunday, aged 90. To my generation he’s best known as John Hammond, the jolly grandfather figure behind Jurassic Park, but on both sides of the screen was a landmark name in British cinema.
A stint with the RAF during World War II led him to the RAF’s film unit. His breakthrough came as Pinkie Brown in the 1947 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. He acted prolifically across the next decade, most notably in the classic ensemble The Great Escape in 1963. 1969’s Oh! What a Lovely War marked the beginning of Attenborough’s directorial career; the highlight being his Best Director Oscar win for the epic Gandhi in 1982.
Entering semi-acting retirement in 1979, he remained behind the screen until cast as John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993, the same year he was granted a life peer for services to cinema.
Attenborough’s contribution to the British film industry was immeasurable. Serving as the president of RADA, and at one point BAFTA, he was tireless in his support for UK produced films. A compassionate filmmaker with a fondness for humanitarian causes, Richard Attenborough was a champion of the human spirit. He’ll be missed.