Richard Attenborough: David once ‘near tears’ detailing late brother’s illness — report

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Richard stars in ‘The Great Escape’, which airs on Film 4 this afternoon at 3:35pm. Based on a true story, the epic war-time suspense film sees a group of allied prisoners of war locked up in the Nazi’s new, “escape proof” camp Stalag Luft III. Richard stars as RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett who, undeterred by the reputation of the prison, mounts an audacious plan to tunnel out of the camp and break out 250 men. 

His plan is not just to escape, but also to cause major disruption at the heart of Nazi occupied Poland. 

The first half of the film plays as light-hearted comedy as the prisoners outwit their jailers to dig the tunnel, while the second half is high adventure as the escapees, played by the likes of Steve McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson, look for a way out of occupied Europe.

‘The Great Escape’ emerged as one of the highest grossing films of 1963, while Steve picked up a best actor award at the Moscow International Film Festival.

But for Richard, it was just another successful chapter to a film career that saw him nominated for a Best Direction BAFTA for ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’, and pick up two Academy Awards for his 1983 masterpiece ‘Gandhi’. 

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Despite his massive success, to some, Richard is considered the less famous brother of Sir David, a beloved broadcaster and naturalist, who’s career has spanned seven decades. 

The brothers were close right up until Richard’s death, five days before his 91st birthday, in 2014.

Six years earlier Richard had suffered a fall at his home after a stroke, and was forced to retire from acting. 

Speaking to the Mail Online in 2011 Sir David explained: “He fell downstairs and damaged his brain, so was unconscious for a long time. 

“He’s now back, but he’s in a wheelchair.”

David added, reportedly with sadness in his voice: “We all change and old age brings changes. 

“You can have a conversation with him. I go down and see him at the weekend. 

“We have our jokes, the ones we’ve had since we were kids”.

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The publication’s reporter Rebecca Hardy, claimed David was “close to tears” as he detailed the difficult few years his brother had encountered. 

Richard tragically lost a daughter and granddaughter in the Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004.

David said: “Hmm it’s distressing. 

“If you lose your daughter and your granddaughter, it’s a body blow.”

He added: “The slow deterioration, the personality change and the dependence is what scares one about death.

“We just hope it doesn’t involve too much pain, either you or the people who have to look after you.”

When asked if he thought about his own death David responded: “Oh all the time. We’re all going to die. 

“I think if I was living in the 16th century and believed there was hell fire and eternal torture awaiting me I’d be frightened of death.”

He added: “I only hope I don’t have too painful or too lingering a death, but the idea that I shall become extinguished doesn’t trouble me particularly.”

Watch ‘The Great Escape’ on Film 4 this afternoon at 3:35pm.

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