Richard Griffiths, a versatile British actor who won a Tony Award for “The History Boys” and played the boy wizard’s unsympathetic Uncle Vernon Dursley in the “Harry Potter” movies, has died. He was 65.
Agent Simon Beresford announced Friday that Griffiths died a day earlier of complications following heart surgery at University Hospital in Coventry, central England.
Born in Stockton-on-Tees and raised in Thornaby, Griffiths was the son of deaf parents and he learned sign language before he could speak. He experienced a somewhat troubled childhood, which included frequent attempts to run away from home, and he dropped out of school at age 15. Hired as a porter, he was encouraged to return to school by his boss and a drama class at Stockton & Billingham College literally changed his life.
Shortly after leaving the college, the portly actor earned a spot in the repertory company of BBC Radio. Too young to be a character player and too hefty to be a young leading man, Griffiths then found himself working in small theaters around Britain, sometimes acting, sometimes stage managing. Finally settling in Manchester, he began to get solid parts on stage, including in an early work of a then unknown Alan Ayckbourn. Griffiths also made his first forays on the small screen, appearing in bit roles in Granada Television productions. By chance, he was working in front of the cameras when Trevor Nunn, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, happened to be in the studios and saw him on a monitor. Nunn encouraged the actor to head to London for a spot with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Griffiths spent several seasons with the RSC at first playing small comic roles in the classics, such as Peter in “Romeo and Juliet” and six lines in “A Comedy of Errors”. Proving the old adage that there are no small parts, Griffiths proved a success with audiences despite his limited stage time and was graduated to more important roles like Bottom in a 1977 staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In 1979, he earned several accolades for his turn as the Hollywood-bound George in the Kaufman and Hart play “Once in a Lifetime”. He went on to be perfectly cast as Falstaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (filmed for British TV) and appeared in several other productions as well.
Find out which other movies he started in here.
Richard Griffiths leaves behind his wife Heather Gibson.