Chaplin: An Introduction, by Lord Attenborough

Director Richard Attenborough with actor Robert Downey Jr.

Richard Attenborough directs Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin (1992)

Charlie Chaplin has been an inspiration to me since childhood. He was the first star actor I ever saw on the cinema screen and his legendary ability to make an audience cry and then almost immediately laugh was greatly responsible for my eventual choice of career.

Charlie's journey, which took him from the extreme poverty of the London slums to early Hollywood, where he found wealth and scandal, idolatry and infamy, is one of the extraordinary stories of the last Century. The decision to make a film about him was based on my conviction that such a life deserved to be recorded, as fully and honestly as possible, through the medium he both pioneered and enhanced.

Although it is fashionable in some circles to compare Charlie unfavorably with other great early comedians, we should not forget that here was a man who not only unified the whole world in laughter, but also proved himself a master of those other disparate disciplines - producing, screenwriting, directing, editing and composing - which, together with performance, combine to create the enduring magic that is cinema.

Lord Attenborough

Patron of the bfi Charlie Chaplin Research Foundation