Richard Attenborough on the set of Shadowlands in 1993 (Picture: Rex)
I have been saddened by the news this morning of the passing of Sir Richard Attenborough. Although often seen to be in the shadow of his brother David, his involvement in the British Film Industry has been largely overlooked for the passed ten years or so.
He was a generous man who saw the best in people and as a director he was a class act. His 1982 Oscar winner ‘Gandhi’ was brilliant in every aspect, the story telling, the photography and the quality of the performances. Ten years later he produced another masterpiece ‘Chaplin’. A fantastic portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in his early career in Hollywood.
However the young people who watch films today will only remember him for his cameo appearances in the Jurassic Park films, in which he performed the eccentric Grandfather role to perfection.
But my own personal favourite is the remake of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, although panned by the critics just watch the faces of young children watching it and you can see the need to believe in there faces.
I suppose that compared to many, his 90 years on this planet have been busy, productive and I suppose privileged in many ways. But it was not without tragedy. His eldest daughter and grand daughter were lost in the Tsunami in 2004, something I would imagine is very hard to come to terms with.
I remember a couple of years ago I was giving an introductory talk to some new first year students about what life will be like working in the media sector when one young lady in the audience said during the break, “You remind me of a famous film director sir, but I can’t remember his name”. I suggested rather naively “would that be Stephen Spielberg”. I asked smugly. “No, that bloke who made Gandhi”. At the time I felt slightly upset since Sir Richard was over thirty years older than me at the time!
So today whilst reading his obituary I was thinking about that student who perhaps I would like to think could see a little bit of his qualities in me, but I doubt it and in this day and age there are far worse people to be compared to.
But my favourite story is about him was when he won the Oscar for Gandhi ahead of Spielberg for ET. In his acceptance speech he mentioned that he didn’t think he deserved it and it should have gone to Spielberg who made a far better film. I suppose many will disagree with him but that was the measure of the man.
I think we need more people like Sir Richard in our world so I hope he rests in peace.