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Lord Richard Attenborough was elected to the post of Chancellor of the University of Sussex in 1998. He stood down in 2008. There now hangs a 42 inch by 46 inch portrait of him in the university’s library. University of Sussex tutor Chris Kempshall ‏tweeted: “If you want to know about Richard Attenborough’s character; 2 weeks after losing family in the Tsunami he was at @SussexUni’s grad ceremony.” With his life-long ambition to make a film about his hero the political theorist and revolutionary Thomas Paine, from Lewes, never realised, the actor and film director, dies just days before his 91st birthday. In 2003 he wrote, “of course I’d rather have nice things written about me, but I’m not a great auteur, I’m not a great director. I’m a good director. I have an ability to make people examine certain circumstances”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Richard Attenborough, actor and director, dies aged 90″ was written by Chris Johnston, for theguardian.com on Monday 25th August 2014 12.11 UTC

Lord Richard Attenborough, the actor and film director, has died just days before his 91st birthday.

After forging a career as an actor in films including Brighton Rock and The Great Escape, he became an acclaimed film director, with Gandhi in 1983 claiming eight Academy awards – a record for a British film – including best director.

"Dickie", the older brother of the nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, died at lunchtime on Sunday, according to his son Michael.

Among those paying tribute to Attenborough was David Cameron, who tweeted: "His acting in Brighton Rock was brilliant, his directing of Gandhi was stunning – Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema."

Mia Farrow tweeted: "Richard Attenborough was the kindest man I have ever had the privilege of working with. A Prince. RIP 'Pa' – and thank you."

Sir Roger Moore said he was "such a wonderful and talented man", while Samantha Bond described him as a "great actor, great director – funny, flirtatious, intelligent, a true gentleman". Ricky Gervais called him "one of the true greats of the silver screen".

Chelsea Football Club, of which he was a lifelong supporter, said: "His personality was woven into the tapestry of the club over seven decades."

In 2013 he was moved into a care home in west London, having suffered a stroke five years earlier that confined him to a wheelchair. His family said last year that Attenborough never fully recovered from the stroke that left him in a coma for several days.

Born in 1923 in Cambridge, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada) in 1940, which was the only reason his father – who was principal of University College, Leicester – agreed to allow him to attend.

Attenborough told the Guardian in 2003: "I'm not an intellectual in any sense, I have constraints of erudition. I'm not able to deal with things outside my ken, and that makes me irritable. I'm irritable about the fact that I never went to university."

His first film role came in 1942. Five years later Attenborough reprised the role of Pinkie Brown, which he had played on stage in London, in the big-screen adaptation of the Graham Greene novel Brighton Rock. It was a role that left him typecast as a spiv and hoodlum for the next few years.

As his profile increased in Britain in the 1950s, Hollywood beckoned and he appeared with Steve McQueen and James Garner in The Great Escape in 1963. He won best supporting actor Golden Globes in 1967 and 1968 for The Sand Pebbles and Doctor Doolittle.

The actor will also be remembered for his turns as the developer John Hammond in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park in 1993, which brought him back to the big screen after a 15-year break, and the 1997 sequel.

Attenborough's first effort in the director's chair came in 1969 with Oh! What A Lovely War, an-all star production of Joan Littlewood's first-world-war satire.

While the record Oscar haul for Gandhi could be regarded as the critical highlight of his career, there were many other well-received productions including A Bridge Too Far (1977), A Chorus Line (1985), Cry Freedom (1987) – which featured Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated role as Steve Biko – Chaplin (1992) and Shadowlands (1993), which won a Bafta for best British film.

"Of course I'd rather have nice things written about me, but I'm not a great auteur, I'm not a great director. I'm a good director. I have an ability to make people examine certain circumstances," he also said in 2003.

Attenborough was married to Sheila Sim, an actress he met at Rada, in 1945 and the couple had two daughters and a son. However, their eldest daughter, Jane Holland, along with her daughter and mother-in-law were killed on Boxing Day in 2004 by the tsunami in southeast Asia.

He was knighted in 1976 and appointed a life peer in 1993. Attenborough was also chairman of Rada for three decades from 1973 and then became its president.

More on Richard Attenborough

• A career in clips
• A life in pictures
• Simon Hattenstone interviews Attenborough in 2008
• Emma Brockes meets him in 2003

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