Over the course of his 60-year-plus career that took him both behind (as a director and producer, of Gandhi, Shadowlands and Chaplin) and in front (as an actor) of the camera, Attenborough notched a considerable number of indelible roles.
Here are some of the finer examples of his acting.
The Great Escape (1963)
Attenborough made a number of films with Steve McQueen, but probably none better remembered than this WWII adventure classic, largely responsible for the “motley crew of outcasts band together for a common goal” archetype used in so many action films since.
Guns at Batasi (1964)
Much of Attenborough’s prolific ’60s output was war-related. In Guns of Batasi, for which he won a BAFTA Film Award, he played the complete opposite of his Great Escape character, buttoning up as the by-the-book Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale.
The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
Watching Attenborough dissolve from maniacal laughter to tears at the end of this clip should be required viewing for aspiring actors.
The Sand Pebbles (1966)
Attenborough picked up a Golden Globe for best supporting actor for his role in this film, in which he starred alongside Steve McQueen again.
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
The podium at the Golden Globes must have looked familiar to Attenborough in 1968 – he won his second consecutive best supporting actor award for Doctor Dolittle that year, just after his win for The Sand Pebbles. He played a circus owner and delivered a jaunty song.
10 Rillington Place (1971)
For anyone who thought Attenborough could only play noble or cuddly, 10 Rillington Place, in which he plays a serial killer, will strongly alter that opinion.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Because Attenborough was behind the camera for almost 15 years prior to Jurassic Park, many younger audience members were introduced to him in this film, and it’s continued to be one of his most fondly remembered roles. When aggregating website Digg announced Attenborough’s death, they used a paraphrased line from the film: “He spared no expense.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Although the film failed to measure up to the 1947 masterful original on which it was based, Attenborough basically is Santa for a generation of moviegoers, which is something pretty good to hang in your stocking.
• Additional reporting by STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN