The actor and director Richard Attenborough has died aged 90. He was best-known for his role as John Hammond, creator of Jurassic Park, in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie.
1. According to IMDb, “some believe Steven Spielberg cast Richard Attenborough as John Hammond to thank him for his support on Oscar night when Gandhi trounced E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
2. Jurassic Park was Attenborough’s first acting role in 15 years.
3. Hammond creates the dinosaurs from DNA trapped in amber. Attenborough’s brother is TV naturalist David, whose collection of animals in amber is the focus of BBC filmThe Amber Time Machine (2004).
4. When Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii during the filming of Jurassic Park, cast and crew were moved into the hotel ballroom. Attenborough stayed in his room and slept through the category four storm.
5. Asked how he managed to sleep through the storm – the biggest ever recorded in Hawaii – Attenborough replied, “My dear boy, I survived the Blitz!”
6. Attenborough’s film career began with an uncredited role as a deserting sailor in the Noel Coward wartime drama In Which We Serve (1942).
7. His breakthrough film role was as a “psychopathic young gangster” in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock (1947).
8. 57 years after he starred in Brighton Rock, his son Michael Attenborough (pictured here on his wedding day with actress wife Jane Seymour), directed a musical version of the novel.
9. Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim starred in the original London West End production of The Mousetrap, the world’s longest-running play, which opened in 1952.
10. “It proved to be the wisest business decision I’ve ever made” wrote Attenborough in his memoir.
11. The couple eventually sold their 10% profit-participation in The Mousetrap to fund the production of Gandhi.
12. His breakthrough Hollywood role was in The Great Escape (1963), playing Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, the head of the escape committee.
In real life, Attenborough was a Royal Air Force air gunner/photographer who served for three years during the Second World War, and flew missions over Europe.
14. Studio bosses apparently wanted Gandhi to be sexy, and to be played by Richard Burton.
15. Attenborough first offered Candice Bergen her cameo role in Gandhi (as documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White) in 1966 while they were filming The Sand Pebbles .
16. Gandhi won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.
The film won eight Academy Awards and was nominated for three more. Source: oscars.org.
17. Just before World War Two, Attenborough’s parents adopted Helga and Irene, two German Jewish girls brought to Britain as part of the Kindertransport – a mission to rescue mission 10,000 Jewish children.
18. Attenborough and his wife Sheila married in 1945.
19. While making his 1987 film Cry Freedom, about the activist Steve Biko, Attenborough was tailed by secret police after meeting Winnie Mandela. Attenborough was a supporter and friend of Nelson Mandela.
20. Attenborough was friends with Princess Diana – pictured here in 1997 with his granddaughter Lucy Holland – who would refer to herself jokingly as “the other lady in his life”.
21. Attenborough was Chelsea Football Club’s Life President.
Attenborough with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho at the club’s 2004 crest launch.
22. In December 2004, his daughter Jane Holland and granddaughter Lucy (pictured) were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami.
23. Attenborough’s Picasso Ceramics collection, assembled since the 1950s, contains more than 140 pieces.
24. Attenborough is survived by his naturalist/TV presenter brother David.
25. The brothers, who grew up in Leicester, were awarded the title of Distinguished Honorary Fellows from the University of Leicester in 2006.
Embrace, the university’s Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts, is named in his Honour.