Sir David Lean, who won Academy Awards for directing "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia," died in London Tuesday at the age of 83, his lawyer announced.

The lawyer, Tony Reeves, issued a statement to reporters that did not disclose the cause of death.Lean had been ill for some time, according British press reports.

As a director, Lean brought a jeweler's precision to sweeping film epics. Robert Mitchum, who starred in "Ryan's Daughter," said working for him was "like trying to build the Taj Mahal with matchsticks."

Lean's directorial career began in collaboration with Noel Coward and progressed to acclaimed adaptations of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" and "Oliver Twist."

He was best known for the wide-screen spectaculars, which began with "Bridge on the River Kwai," and included "Dr. Zhivago" and "A Passage to India."

In March, he was to have begun filming "Nostromo," a project based on Joseph Conrad's novel that had been several years in the works. On Jan. 8, his French producer Serge Silberman said Lean had been taken ill.

"I just love telling stories," Lean said in a 1990 interview with The Times of London.