Tributes pour in for cinema great Richard Attenborough

AFP
This April 27, 2005 file photo shows Sir Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim as they arrive to attend the funeral of Sir John Mills in the church of St. Mary The Virgin in Denham
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London (AFP) - Two prime ministers and director Steven Spielberg were among those offering tributes to actor and film-maker Richard Attenborough who died on Sunday aged 90, bringing the curtain down on a six-decade career.

"Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema," said Cameron on Twitter, praising his star-making performance in 1947 classic "Brighton Rock" and his "stunning" work on "Gandhi", for which he won the 1983 best director Oscar.

Spielberg, who persuaded Attenborough to return to acting for 1994's "Jurassic Park", paid tribute to a "dear friend".

"Dickie Attenborough was passionate about everything in his life – family, friends, country and career," said the US director.

"He made a gift to the world with his emotional epic Gandhi and he was the perfect ringmaster to bring the dinosaurs back to life as John Hammond in Jurassic Park.

"He was a dear friend and I am standing in an endless line of those who completely adored him."

Attenborough, who was born in Cambridge in 1923, also entered politics in later life.

Former prime minister Tony Blair, whose Labour Party appointed Attenborough to the House of Lords, said it had been "a privilege to know" the veteran performer.

He was a "fabulously successful yet humble and utterly without arrogance of any kind; possessing enormous compassion and humanity; gifted, creative, fascinating and yet approachable and good fun.

"In politics he was a fund of common sense, practical but with an absolute passion for human dignity and the equality of all," he told ITV News.

His 1987 drama "Cry Freedom", set in South Africa under apartheid, reflected the fact that Attenborough "believed passionately in social justice", a Labour spokesman said.

- The 'kindest man' -

Attenborough, who also appeared in British classic "The Great Escape", died on Sunday lunchtime, his son told the BBC.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of esteemed filmmaker and former BAFTA President, Lord Attenborough," said the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on its Facebook page.

Attenborough's "passionate support of BAFTA for more than 50 years was integral to who we are today. He will be sorely missed."

Fellow actor and director Stephen Fry wrote that he was "sad to hear" of the news, saying that Attenborough had done "so much in so many arenas."

Mia Farrow called Attenborough "the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with" while British actor Roger Moore said he was "greatly saddened to hear the great Richard Attenborough has left us."

"Such a wonderful and talented man," said the James Bond star.

Football club Chelsea, of which Attenborough was a lifelong supporter, also paid tribute to the director.

"His personality was woven into the tapestry of the club over seven decades. He was a consistent force for good at the club, even in dark times," the club said in a statement.

The brother of famous wildlife presenter David, he had three children with his wife Sheila, who he had married aged 21.

In 2004 his daughter Jane Holland and her daughter Lucy were killed in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

His surviving children are Michael, a theatre director, and Charlotte, an actor.

Increasingly frail after falling down the stairs at home, Attenborough moved into a care home with his wife towards the end of his life.

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