Richard Attenborough - a Patriarch of British Film History

Written by Antoinette Alba

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Pinkie Brown, John Christie, Kris Kringle, John Hammond. Each role played seamlessly by Lord Richard Attenborough, one of Britain’s leading actors, directors and patrons. As we approach the first anniversary of his death in August 2014, we commemorate his success, earned through passion, sacrifice and humility.

 

Making his film debut in in 1942’s In Which We Serve, Attenborough made film history, starring in over 50 films including Brighton Rock, Sand Pebbles, Doctor Dolittle, 10 Rilliington Place, Elizabeth and Jurassic Park. In the late 1950’s, he formed Beaver Films production company with Bryan Forbes, and produced films such as The Angry Silence, Whistle Down the Wind, The L-Shaped Room, and Séance on a Wet Afternoon.

 

The year 1969 marked Attenborough’s debut as a director, with the film Oh! What a Lovely War, however it is perhaps his phenomenal direction of Gandhi that is most well known and acclaimed. Embarking on a journey that would take 20 years to come to fruition, Attenborough first received the film proposal for Gandhi in 1962. Without realising how much time, money, legalities, and other hoops he would have to jump through, he sacrificed his finances, credibility, and even safety to make the film that would go on to earn 8 Oscars, 5 BAFTAs, and 11 BAFTA Nominations, as well as launch the career of Ben Kingsley. It became one of his biggest projects and proves his dedication and tireless support for ventures that he believed could make a difference.

 

Through this kind of dedication and passion, Attenborough directed and perpetuated the legacy of A-list actors such as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ben Kingsley, Debra Winger, and Denzel Washington.

 

Having become a British Cinema legend, Attenborough has served as President or Chairman of 30 foundations including UNICEF, BAFTA, RADA, The Gandhi Foundation, the British Film Institute, the National Film and Television School, and patron of the United World Colleges. Attenborough was given the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1967, and knighted in 1976. He is even credited with coaching Princess Diana on public speaking at the request of Prince Charles.

 

The breadth of Lord Richard Attenborough’s career, including actor, producer, director, knight, soldier during WWII, and champion of education make him a protagonist in more ways than one. His legacy is one of change, passion, inspiration, and constant humility. His life and career encourage new aspiring actors and directors that no boundary cannot be broken, and that there is a multiplicity of roles that can affect change. 

 

Lord Attenborough is at the nucleus of everything that signifies The Protagonist Magazine.