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Richard Griffiths rehearses The Sunshine Boys (photo: Marc Brenner)

Actor Griffiths dies

Published March 29, 2013

Olivier Award-winning actor Richard Griffiths has died aged 65 from complications following heart surgery.

Arguably best known for his Olivier and Tony Award-winning role in Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed play and film, The History Boys, Griffiths was born in 1947 in Thornaby-on-Tees and began his career training at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama before appearing at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The career that followed saw Griffiths achieve incredible success both on screen and stage. His numerous stage credits included his most recent appearances in The Habit Of Art at the National Theatre, Rules Of The Game and Galileo at the Almeida theatre, and The White Guard and Henry VIII for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

On screen, the larger-than-life actor found fame playing Uncle Monty in cult film Withnail And I, as well as numerous leading roles in television series include Pie In The Sky and Bleak House, and films Chariots Of Fire, Ghandi, The Naked Gun 2 ½, Sleepy Hollow and Hugo. To younger generations he will always be known for playing Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter series.

BBC News today reported that Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre, had paid tribute to the star, saying: “Richard Griffiths wasn’t only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors – he was also one of the very greatest. His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously.”

Griffiths’ last stage appearance saw the much-loved actor star opposite Danny DeVito in Thea Sharrock’s production of The Sunshine Boys. Speaking to Official London Theatre’s Matthew Amer at the time, Griffiths summed up how it felt to get older, saying: “However long you live in your heart you will always feel emotionally as you did when you were 17 or 18. You burn the same way you burned. You lust the same way you lusted. You despair the same way you despaired. You feel guilt. You feel aggression. The emotions are permanently on fire.”

"His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously."