Richard Griffiths, the British stage and character actor best known for portraying Uncle Vernon Dursley in the “Harry Potter” movies, has died. He was 65.
He died Thursday at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, from complications following heart surgery, according to the Associated Press.
Griffiths won a Tony Award for “The History Boys” and appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. He had a big stage presence and particularly excelled at playing larger-than-life characters from the buffoonish knight Falstaff with the Royal Shakespeare Company to King George in the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
On television, he played a crime-solving chef in 1990s’ British TV series “Pie in the Sky,” and he had parts in movies ranging from historical dramas “Chariots of Fire” and “Gandhi” to slapstick farce “The Naked Gun 2 ½.”
But he will be most widely remembered as a pair of contrasting uncles — Harry Potter’s magic-fearing Uncle Vernon Dursley and Uncle Monty in cult film “Withnail and I.”
According to the AP, Griffith once said he took the role of Uncle Vernon “because that gives me a license to be horrible to kids.”
But Radcliffe recalled Griffiths’ kindness.
“Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career,” said Radcliffe, who in 2007 starred with Griffiths in a London and Broadway production of “Equus.”
“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 humor made it a joy.”
Griffiths was born in northeast England’s Thornaby-on-Tees in 1947 to parents who were deaf and mute — an experience he and his directors felt contributed to his exceptional ability to listen and to communicate physically.
“The first language he learned was sign. And therefore his ability to listen to people with his eyes as well as his ears is incredible,” Thea Sharrock, who directed “Equus,” told The Associated Press in 2008.
Griffiths’ last major stage role was in a West End production of Neil Simon’s comedy “The Sunshine Boys” last year opposite Danny DeVito. The pair had been due to reprise their roles in Los Angeles later this year.
Griffiths is survived by his wife, Heather Gibson.
Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.