He shall never play the Dane: Uncle Monty actor Richard Griffiths dies

Celebrated stage and screen actor also played Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films

 

Richard Griffiths, one of Britain’s most celebrated character actors, has died from complications following heart surgery.

The stage and screen star, who played Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films, was 65. One of his finest performances was as the lecherous, vegetable-loving Uncle Monty in cult favourite Withnail and I.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter alongside him, led tributes to the actor whose “encouragement, tutelage and humour” made work “a joy”.

Radcliffe, who also performed with Griffiths in the stage play Equus, said: “Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career.

“In August 2000, before official production had even begun on Potter, we filmed a shot outside the Dursleys’, which was my first ever shot as Harry. I was nervous and he made me feel at ease.

“Seven years later, we embarked on Equus together. It was my first time doing a play but, terrified as I was, his encouragement, tutelage and humour made it a joy.

“In fact, any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence. I am proud to say I knew him.”

Griffiths died yesterday at the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire.

The married actor, who was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire, and grew up caring for his deaf parents, was awarded an OBE for services to drama in 2007.

His agent Simon Beresford said: “Richard brightened my days and enriched the life of anyone he came into contact with. Richard gave acting a good name. He was a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors. He will be greatly missed.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his devoted wife Heather and his family at this sad time.”

Griffiths, born on July 31st, 1947, left school at 15 but later returned to education to study drama, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He married Heather Gibson in 1980 after they met during a production of Lady Windermere’s Fan in 1973. His early television career saw him land bit parts in series such as Minder, The Sweeney and Bergerac. Film credits included Chariots Of Fire, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, GoldenEye, Gandhi and The Naked Gun 2 1/2.

Withnailand I, which starred Richard E Grant and Paul McGann as two out-of-work actors and Griffiths as the predatory Uncle Monty, was released in 1987. Shot on a shoestring budget and with little plot to speak of, it was largely ignored when first released but is now regarded as a British classic.

Griffiths went on to star as a crime-solving chef in TV series Pie In The Sky during the 1990s, and made his first appearance as Uncle Vernon in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, released in 2001.

He has earned endless plaudits for his stage and screen career, including a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as inspirational teacher Hector in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. The same role also earned him a Tony Award when the production transferred to Broadway.

The portly actor was known for his zero-tolerance approach to mobile phones in theatres. In 2004 he ordered a man out of the National Theatre when his phone repeatedly rang during a performance of The History Boys. The following year he stopped mid-speech during a production of Heroes at Wyndham’s Theatre to scold a woman whose phone kept going off.

The actor, who starred alongside Danny DeVito in Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys at the Savoy Theatre, last year, was due to reprise the role in September in Los Angeles.

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