The Gardener of “Souls”
“He was such a wonderful human being. He was gentle, not a Hitler-esque cruel director. I never saw him get angry; he wasn’t a tortured human being in any way. Because he’d been an actor himself, he made a gardener director. He knew exactly what the plants were, how much sun and how much earth and water they needed. He let them grow and blossom in their own time. I loved him and I shall miss him like anything.” –Saeed Jaffrey
“Dickie, a one-man entertainment empire, was at least as significant as those humanitarian titans he brought to life on screen. He was also the quintessence of kindness and modesty, and it was a privilege to have known and worked with him.” — Michael York
It took twenty years. He told everybody that he would do it.
It took him twenty years of Championing to get the funding and to make it.
Richard Attenborough was able to make Gandhi (1982), which had a fine performance by Ben Kingsley in the title role. The film is dedicated to Lord Mountbatten, Pandit Nehru and an unknown Indian called Motilal Kothari, who suggested the subject to Attenborough in the first place in 1962.
Nehru’s advice to Attenborough was that it would be wrong to deify Gandhi: “He was too great a man for that.” The film won eight Oscars – best picture, best actor, best director, best original screenplay, best cinematography, best art direction, best editing, best costume design – the biggest haul ever for a British movie. In his acceptance speech, Attenborough said: “Gandhi believed if we could but agree, simplistic though it be, that if we do not resort to violence then the route to solving problems would be much different than the one we take.”
( 29 August 1923 – 24 August 2014)
Richard Samuel Attenborough, Baron Attenborough, CBE, Champion Idealist, was an English actor, film director, film producer, and entrepreneur. He was the President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
As a film director and producer, he won two Academy Awards for Gandhi in 1983. He also won four BAFTA Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. As an actor, he is perhaps best known for his roles in Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place, Miracle on 34th Street and Jurassic Park.
“Richard Attenborough, who has died aged 90, had three distinct personas for those who followed his career in the entertainment world: the baby-faced, pint-sized actor, at turns, cocky and cowardly, later rotund in mostly creepy character roles; the film director of socially powerful epics such as Gandhi and Cry Freedom; and Lord “Dickie”, ubiquitous, ebullient and lachrymose, presiding over a host of charitable organisations. However, each image merges into one complete picture of a cheerful humanitarian and imperishable idealist who, for over half a century, played an integral part in British cultural life.”
He once told the film critic David Robinson that he derived the most pride from a back-handed compliment paid by an American critic. As Attenborough explained: “He said something like, ‘the problem with Attenborough’s work is that he is more interested in the content than the execution.’ Almost without exception that is true. I am glad to say I am sorry if I’m not more adventurous cinematically. But my concern is always, did the film say what I wanted to express or advocate?”
Champions [Advocates] can be tireless in talking with others, like fountains that bubble and splash, spilling over their own words to get it all out. And usually this is not simple storytelling; Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types. [Please Understand Me II]
He could never remember names so he called everybody: Darling.
Attenborough’s parents encouraged him as kid by their own actions. Attenborough’s father, Frederick, was a Cambridge don, who later became principal of University College Leicester. Richard, born in Cambridge, was exposed to culture early. His parents and grandparents were all musical, and one of his first memories was hearing The Messiah. Above all, Richard and his two younger brothers, David and John, were brought up with a sense of social responsibility. Their mother, Mary, was chair of a committee to care for evacuee Basque children during the Spanish civil war, and she marched in protest against the bombing of Guernica. On the outbreak of the second world war, the Attenboroughs took two Jewish girls into their home, where they stayed for eight years. “That particular decision, not merely paying lip service but taking positive, responsible action to help other human beings, made a profound impression on me. It has, I suppose, affected my life and my attitudes ever since,” Attenborough wrote.
Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials. [Please Understand Me II]
This is clear from most of his choices of subjects as a producer and director. He inherited his energy and non-stop activity from his mother, who died in a car accident, apparently suffering a heart attack as she was returning alone from a committee meeting. Moreover, it is clear that Richard naturally had his mother’s Temperament: Idealist also. Once they understood him, his parents were able to nurture him for his own Temperament and Character.
The three brothers were of quite different Personalities: Character and Temperament, and were able to march to their own drums.
I adore my family, they are my joy. However, I am committed to my work. If on a Saturday morning when I was ostensibly going to be with the children and something arose at Rada or at Unicef or at the orphanage or whatever, I would allow the other pressures to take precedent. — Richard Attenborough
Other Champion Idealists include: Debbie Cima, Ariel Durant, Nicholas Kristof, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nelson Mandela, Wilber Wilberforce, Karen Underhill, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Joan Baez, and Ann Dunham.