By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes on Monday for actor and director Richard Attenborough who died aged 90 after a career in the film industry spanning over six decades.
Attenborough died on Sunday. His agent described him as a “truly great man of both the cinema and the arts” and tributes poured in from the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics.
One of Attenborough’s greatest achievements was making the cinematic tribute to Mahatma Gandhi in 1982 with the $22 million epic “Gandhi” winning eight Academy Awards including a best director Oscar for Attenborough.
He also won acting fame for a list of movies including playing a theme park owner in “Jurassic Park”, Kris Kringle in the 1994 Christmas fantasy film “Miracle on 34th Street”, and Big X in “The Great Escape.”
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Cameron said Attenborough’s acting in the 1947 film “Brighton Rock”, in which he played psychopathic teenager Pinkie Brown, was brilliant and his directing of “Gandhi” stunning.
“Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema,” Cameron wrote on Twitter.
Attenborough, the elder brother of naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, suffered a stroke in 2008 and used a wheelchair. He had been living in a care home for those in the theatrical profession.
Born on August 29, 1923 in Cambridge, England, Attenborough longed to act from the age of four and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1941. That year he made his stage debut in London’s West End and in 1942 played his first film part in Noel Coward’s “”In Which We Serve.”
He later joined the Royal Air Force, qualifying as a pilot, and in 1944 volunteered for a unit filming over Germany. Attenborough played underdogs and misfits in a string of character roles after World War Two, notably “Brighton Rock”,”Seance on a Wet Afternoon” and “10 Rillington Place”.
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But it was directing of “”Gandhi” that established him as one of Britain’s best-known cinema personalities and won him a string of international awards.
Actress Mia Farrow, who appeared in the 1964 film “Guns at Batasi” with Attenborough, tweeted: “Richard Attenborough was the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with. A Prince. RIP ‘Pa’ – and thank you.”
Fellow British actor Roger Moore tweeted that he was “greatly saddened to hear the great Attenborough had left us. Such a wonderful and talented man”.
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Chelsea Football Club also paid tribute to Attenborough who was life president at the London club which he joined in 1969.
The club said Attenborough helped save the club when the freehold for the lucrative home ground changed hands and many shares were bought by property developers.
Attenborough kept hold of his shares and it eventually helped the club take back control of the freehold.
“He was a consistent force for good at the club, even in dark times,” the club said in a statement.
Attenborough was also a businessman with interests in commercial radio and television in Britain, and a tireless worker for numerous charities.
Part of his share of the profits from “Gandhi” went to organizations like the Save the Children Fund and Gandhi’s own ashrams, or alms houses, in India.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)