Richard Attenborough - Profile

Ask most cinemagoers today what they understand by the name Pinkie and they’d look at you with blank faces. But for more serious viewers, Pinkie equals "Brighton Rock" (1947) and one of the great screen villains. And of course, the scarred face and small, robust physique also signals the man who played him, Richard Attenborough.

Mst of us are only used to the Dickie of modern times - a luvvie, a peer, and that old geezer from "Jurassic Park" (1993). But the Cambridge-born actor/director actually signifies all that was once great about British cinema.

After attending RADA, Attenborough edged into professional acting as a terrified seaman in "In Which We Serve" (1942), using his unconventional looks to his advantage by carving out a healthy niche as a character actor. Some of the films that followed - "The League Of Gentlemen" (1959) and his chilling portrayal of murderer John Christie in "10 Rillington Place" (1971) - are among the best of all time.

He has acted in Hollywood movies too, most noticeably as the doomed leader of "The Great Escape" (1963), as well as setting up a successful production company, Beaver Films, with writer Bryan Forbes.

It was only a matter of time before he stepped behind the camera, making his directorial debut with "Oh! What A Lovely War" (1969) through to concentrating on meaningful epics like "Gandhi" (1982), which won three Oscars, and the evocative apartheid drama "Cry Freedom" (1987). Though some of these films vary in quality, they are always detailed, beautiful to look at, and judging by Anthony Hopkins in "Magic" (1978) and Robert Downey Jr in "Chaplin" (1992), full of often staggering performances.

Married to Sheila Sim since 1945, recently Attenborough has experienced something of a rebirth, acting in films like "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994) and "Elizabeth" (1998), while also continuing to play a major part in maintaining Britain’s cultural heritage, serving as patron to numerous arts organisations.

And while he may be 80, the ever jovial Lord continues to direct, his latest film "Grey Owl", starring Pierce Brosnan, confirming his affiliation with life-affirming, historical dramas.