Lord Richard Attenborough
EMMA Lifetime Achievement Award 2001
Lord Richard Attenborough was the first person to inform the world in large about apartheid and the problems it had caused in South Africa with his film, Cry Freedom (1987).
Having devoted his life to fighting racism and prejudice, Attenborough's career as an actor, director, producer and human rights campaigner has spanned some 60 years. He is one of the world's great communicators, and has used his films to educate and move audiences with his compassionate and beautiful storytelling whilst tackling important issues.
This is particularly evident in his film Cry Freedom. The film tells the story of South African journalist, Donald Woods, who is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the murder of his friend, black activist Steve Biko. It is now widely accepted that the film encouraged the introduction of economic sanctions that eventually contributed to a change in the South African government.
Attenborough directed the cinematic classic Gandhi (1982). In 1984 Lord Richard Attenborough was awarded the Martin Luther King Peace Prize for his work in combating racism. He has also received India's Padma Bhusan award. He is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
With films like Ghandi and Cry Freedom, he has shown he has no fear in tackling big issues and his determination to do so has had enormous impact on the world. He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the regimental Sergeant Major in Guns at Batasi (1964). One of Attenborough's most notable film roles was as Squadron Leader, Roger Bartlett ("Big X"), the head of the escape committee, in The Great Escape (1963). As of September 2006, he is one of only three surviving major stars of the film, the others being James Garner and David McCallum.
In 1967 and 1968, he won back-to-back Golden Globe Awards in the category of Best Supporting Actor. The first time for The Sand Pebbles, starring Steve McQueen, and the second time for Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison. He would win another Golden Globe for Best Director, for Gandhi, in 1983.
He is also known for his role as the eccentric developer, John Hammond in Jurassic Park (1993), Steven Spielberg's screen version of Michael Crichton's bestseller. This was his first acting role in nearly 14 years.
He also had memorable roles in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, as Kris Kringle, and the 1998 historical drama Elizabeth, as Sir William Cecil.
Early in his stage career, Attenborough starred in the London West End production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which went on to become one of the world's longest running stage productions. Both he and his wife were among the original cast members of the production, which opened in 1952 and as of 2006 is still running.
In 1967, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He was knighted in 1976 and in 1993 he was made a life peer as Baron Attenborough, of Richmond upon Thames.
On 13 July 2006, Attenborough, along with his brother David, were awarded the titles of Distinguished Honorary Fellows of the University of Leicester "in recognition of a record of continuing distinguished service to the University."
Passionate about people and helping others, through Richard’s commitment, energy, passion and determination he has brought serious human rights issues to the global conscience in an entertaining and enlightening way.