Born in Cambridge, England, in 1923, Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force in World War II, where he was assigned to the film unit. His first film role was an uncredited bit part in David Lean’s war propaganda film In Which We Serve (1942). Attenborough’s big break came in 1947 playing a gangster in Brighton Rock, a noirish thriller based upon a Graham Greene novel. Stardom in Britain followed, and Attenborough would subsequently win plaudits for his performances in The Great Escape (1963), Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), and Flight of the Phoenix (1965). He is probably most recognized for his work as John Hammond, the eccentric millionaire in Jurassic Park (1993).
In 1969, Attenborough made his directorial debut with the World War I musical drama Oh! What a Lovely War. However, it was his sprawling, visually resplendent biopic Gandhi (1982) that won Attenborough a Best Director Oscar and solidified his status as a top-notch filmmaker. He subsequently won critical praise for Cry Freedom (1987) and Shadowlands (1993). In addition to numerous filmmaking awards, Attenborough was knighted in 1976.
Attenborough had been in poor health the last few years, and was living in a nursing home at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife Sheila Sim and three children.