As a child he went on set with grandfather Sir Richard Attenborough, bouncing on Sandra Bullock’s knee, and listening to tales of the legendary director making epics such as Gandhi.

Now he has followed in those footsteps and Tom Attenborough hopes he can one day live up to his famous relative’s legacy.

“Gandhi changed lives as did Cry Freedom and my grandfather did it in the face of adversity. No one wanted to make it and he made it happen.

“They had to film Cry Freedom in Zimbabwe because the South Africans absolutely didn’t want it to happen and he and my granny had death threats.

“But the fact he made them and they have changed so many people’s lives for the better is an astonishing legacy.”

The Hammersmith resident, who is directing Park Theatre’s latest production Dinner with Friends, adds: “At the age of 29 I’m under no illusions I’m making the next Gandhi yet but knowing my grandfather did that is extraordinarily inspiring.”

That said, Tom says he has never felt pressure to follow in the footsteps of Sir Richard, or his theatre director father Michael Attenborough.

“I don’t think it was a given that I would go into it.

“I had a great exposure to the theatre when I was young, my parents took me to see fantastic things and I met wonderful people, but I was always encouraged to do what felt right to me.”

He was certainly surrounded by the excitement of performing from a young age.

“I remember going on set when my grandfather directed In Love and War and I remember sitting on Sandra Bullock’s knee, a memory I will certainly never forget.

“And I went on the set of Shadowlands in Oxford and played football with the crew.

“I guess I did absorb a level of understanding of the industry from a young age.”

Away from the glitter and glamour of Hollywood, Tom says the Attenboroughs were just a normal family.

“We would just talk about our lives.

“Of course if my grandfather was working on a film or with celebrities it would come up in conversation. But they weren’t celebrities to him they were just friends. We just felt like a lovely, normal family.

“My dad’s sister and husband are teachers and my dad’s late sister worked in dance and her husband is a ship broker, so we had a huge variety of occupations and interests, so conversation was always very varied.”

Tom’s first professional foray into showbusiness was as a voiceover artist, his mother Karen Lewis runs agency Hobson, and you can hear him as George Weasley in the Harry Potter video games.

But it was when he went off to university and was asked by a friend to direct his play in his final year of an English Literature degree that Tom realised he had inherited more than his name from his family.

“I just fell in love with directing, “ he says.

“I think the whole point of art is to affect people’s views on the world and how they react to it. So that’s is what I hope to do – make people think and come out of the theatre more enriched than when they went in.

Dinner with Friends is his first play at Park and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000.

“Fundamentally, the play is about relationships and how human beings relate to each other.

“It follows two couples in their 40s who have been friends for years and starts with one couple telling the other they are breaking up, and follows the fallout of that revelation.

“It’s stunning, layered, incredibly complex and most of all fascinatingly real and very human. Donald Margulies has a way of capturing the truth and giving an insight into the human psyche that I have never come across before and it is just a joy to direct.”

Tom has been married a couple of years ago but says the brilliance of the play is the way with just four characters it manages to represent the whole planet and have a universal appeal.

“It doesn’t celebrate or condemn marriage or divorce it just says everyone is different and every relationship is different and that is what is so moving abut it, you can see element s of yourself on the stage.”

His previous projects include The Wasp at Hampstead Theatre which is about to have its West End transfer to Trafalgar Studios 2 and he says sharing his experiences with his family is a joy.

“My parents always come to everything I do they are so supportive and it’s always great to hear their opinions afterwards.

“Grandfather didn’t see anything professionally. By the time I had left university he had unfortunately had a fall and wasn’t able to. But I was always able to show him photographs and reviews and my granny as well, who is still alive and incredibly well at the age of 93 at Denville Hall in Northwood.

“I worked on Hayfever earlier this year and she was telling me about her experience of doing the play in the 1940s because my grandparents were very good friends with Noel Coward. Hearing those stories and finding out about those experiences is incredible.”

Tom has also just directed his first short film Hide and Seek which is in post-production and in the future would love to work with actor brother Will Attenborough who is starring in Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman.

He says of what it takes to be a director: “It is incredibly personal. I think it takes courage in your own convictions, that you can trust your instincts, but also the ability to listen most importantly, you are the conductor of a huge orchestra and you have to make sure every element is not only happy but working to the best of their ability and has the environment to create their best work.

“You create an incredible team and support the best idea, that’s what it takes.”

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, October 27 to November 28. For more details, go to