Born in Cambridge, England, Attenborough was one of Britain's leading actors and at one time served as the president of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his roles as Santa Claus in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, and Dr. John Hammond in Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World. He also appeared in 1963's The Great Escape.
Before he became an actor, Attenborough served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, flying with the Film Unit during several missions across Europe.
His acting career began on the British stage and he continued to perform in plays after transitioning to films. In 1952, Attenborough and his wife, Sheila Sim, were among the original cast members in a production of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which went on to become the world's longest-running stage production.
In addition to his movie roles, Attenborough was also successful behind the camera. He directed several films, including 1982's Best Picture Oscar-winner, Gandhi (for which he also won a Best Directing Academy Award), as well as A Chorus Line (1985) and Shadowlands (1983).
In more recent years, Attenborough focused on charity work. In 2004, he became the Honorary Life President of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, for which he had served as president for more than three decades. He and his wife also founded the Richard and Sheila Attenborough Visual Arts Centre, as well as the Jane Holland Creative Centre for Learning in Swaziland, Africa, in memory of his daughter who died along with her daughter and mother-in-law in the Asian tsunami in December 2004.
Attenborough had been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 2008; by 2013, both he and Sim were both living in a nursing home.
Attenborough is survived by his wife, his brother David, and two children.