Date of Birth: August 29, 1923
The son of a school administrator (and brother of future naturalist David), the Cambridge native began dabbling in theatricals at the age of twelve. In 1941 he attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and turned professional, making his first stage appearance in a production of Ah, Wilderness! Two years later, he made his screen debut as the Young Sailor in In Which We Serve (1942).
After three years' service with the Royal Air Force, Attenborough rose to film stardom in the 1947 film version of Brighton Rocka role that caused him to be typecast as a working-class misfit over the next few years.
In 1959, he and director Bryan Forbes teamed up to form Beaver Films. During their partnership, Attenborough played such sharply etched personalities as Tom Curtis in The Angry Silence (1960) and also functioned as producer for Forbes-directed films such as The L-Shaped Room (1962). During the 1960s, Attenborough leaned more toward military roles and was cast in films like The Great Escape (1963) and Guns at Batasi (1964)a performance that earned him a British Academy Award. It was time for Attenborough to move on and in 1964, his partnership with Forbes was dissolved.
His extended cameo in the popular 1967 musical Dr. Dolittle may have set up his film directorial debut, the satirical anti-war revue Oh, What a Lovely War (1969). This film was followed by a number of other films, including Magic (1978), which starred his favorite leading man, Anthony Hopkins.
Unfortunately, directing took a lot of his time away from acting, which reflected in his performances. But all was forgotten when in 1982 Attenborough directed the spectacular biopic Gandhi. The film won a raft of Academy Awards, including a Best Director statuette for Attenborough; he was also honored with a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award and the Director's Guild Award. If all this wasn't enough, Attenborough published his book "In Search of Gandhi."
Some of his best post-Gandhi directorial efforts include Cry Freedom (1987), 1992's Chaplin, an epic biopic of the silent comedian, and Shadowlands (1993), for which he won another BAFTA award.
Attenborough returned to the screen in the '90s, acting in avuncular character roles, including the affable but woefully misguided billionaire entrepreneur John Hammond in Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993), the jovial Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1994) and Sir William Cecil in Elizabeth (1998).
In 1945, he married fellow actress Sheila Sim, and together they had a son and two daughters. In 1976 he was knighted and in 1994, he became a Lord. He has served in dozens of professional chairmanships over the last thirty years, and has worked on behalf of Britain's Muscular Dystrophy Group.
Filmography (director):Closing the Ring (2008)
Filmography (actor):Snow Prince (2004)