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Attenborough on Lean

27 May 2008
Lord Attenborough and Sir David Lean.BAFTA Archive

From one British cinema legend to another: Lord Attenborough pays tribute to Sir David Lean.

David Lean was one of the founding fathers of the British Film Academy and an exceptional filmmaker. His outstanding work was an inspiration to many in the moving image industries and to audiences around the world. At the time of his death, on 16 April 1991, our current BAFTA President, Lord Attenborough (no stranger to accolades himself), paid Lean a rich and touching tribute.

As part of its online digitisation project the BAFTA Archive team have focused on these two great individuals - both of whom have made invaluable contributions to the British and international film industries and to the development of the Academy itself over many decades.

“David was undoubtedly The Master – certainly, in my time, the world’s greatest narrative director.

With Freddie Young and John Box he created some of the most memorable imagery that remains fixed on the retina for all time.

He demanded a standard of work from all who had the privilege of working with him from which he never departed. He is supposed to have said that he enjoyed editing more than any other part of filming principally because there were no actors to get in the way. Whether this be apocryphal or not, there were certainly some wonderful performances to be seen in his movies and many players were indeed proud – as I was myself when making my first screen appearance fifty years ago – to be numbered amongst his various casts.

Many of us are in his debt but none more than the Members of this Academy who will honour his name always – both as one of the finest of our creative filmmakers and also, most particularly, as our principle benefactor.”

Richard Attenborough