Lord Richard Attenborough

'Portrait of Sir Richard Attenborough' 1985-86 by Bryan Organ. Part of the Leicester Arts & Museums Collection

'Portrait of Sir Richard Attenborough' 1985-86 by Bryan Organ. Part of the Leicester Arts & Museums Collection

Lord Richard Samuel Attenborough, CBE is an internationally acclaimed actor, film director and producer. He is also the former President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

The eldest of three brothers, Richard Attenborough was born in Cambridge on 29th August 1923. His two younger brothers are John Attenborough and David Attenborough, the famous naturalist. Richard was the first son of Mary (née Clegg), a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and Frederick Levi Attenborough who was a don at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The Attenborough family’s association with Leicester began when Richard’s father was appointed principal of University College. The Attenborough brothers were educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys and their mother was President of the Little Theatre in Leicester. Richard became interested in the theatre from an early age and after he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) at the age of 17, he went to London to train. While at RADA he met the actress Sheila Sim who later became his wife.

He won his first film role in 1942 in the film In Which We Serve but his real breakthrough came in 1952 with his role as ‘Pinkie Brown’ in Graham Green’s Brighton Rock.  He continued to work in the film industry for over 30 years and appeared in many films including Séance on a Wet Afternoon, the Great Escape, Jurassic Park and Miracle on 34th Street.

Richard Attenborough also gained renown as a film director and producer and in the late 1950s he formed a production company ‘Beaver Films’ with Bryan Forbes. They produced many films including The League of Gentlemen and Whistle Down the Wind.  He also directed numerous films including Young Winston and A Bridge Too Far. He won two Academy Awards in 1982 (Best Film and Best Director) for his film Gandhi.

One of the Picasso Ceramics owned by Lord Richard Attenborough that is on loan for the exhibition at New Walk Museum. Image Copyright Leicester City Council

One of the Picasso Ceramics owned by Lord Richard Attenborough that is on loan for the exhibition at New Walk Museum. Image Copyright Leicester City Council

Richard Attenborough has kept his strong ties to Leicester: his father was principal of University College, Leicester, which is now the University of Leicester; this has resulted in a long association with the university, with Lord Attenborough a patron and the university's Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts, which opened in 1997, is named in his honour. As a young boy Richard had spent many hours exploring the treasures to be found in the New Walk Museum and he never forgot the pleasure he had gained from visiting the museum. He has collected ceramics by Pablo Picasso since the 1950s and thanks to Richard’s generosity, more than 100 items went on display at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester in 2007. The exhibition is dedicated to his family members lost in the 2004 tsunami. He is also Life President of the Little Theatre in Leicester and in 1990 he was made a Freeman of the City of Leicester.