Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Harry Potter star Richard Griffiths has died at the age of 65

Harry Potter actor Richard Griffiths has died of complications following heart surgery aged 65.

The stage and screen star and one of Britain's most celebrated actors played uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films.

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 portly award-winning actor, played many starring roles both on television and the West End.

He was perhaps best recognised - apart from his roles in Harry Potter films - for his portrayal of Inspector Henry Crabbe, a disillusioned policeman and pie chef, in the successful TV detective drama series, Pie In The Sky.

His weight problem was believed to be the result of some medication he received when a youngster.

Griffiths was also well-known as an actor who took a strong line against members of theatre audiences whose mobile telephones rang out during performances. At least twice, he was known to have stopped a show to order people out of the theatre after their phones had persistently rung.

But he was a character actor much in demand.

Griffiths received a host of awards for his performance as Hector, the teacher, in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, both in the West End and on Broadway.

These included the Laurence Olivier Award for best actor, the Drama Desk Award for outstanding actor in a play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for best featured actor in a play, and a Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a play.

He was born on July 31 1947 in Thornaby-on-Tees, the son of a steelworker. His parents were both deaf and he learned sign language at an early age so he could communicate with them.

Griffiths developed an ear for dialects which subsequently landed him with several ethnic roles.

In his childhood, he attempted to run away from home many times. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and worked as a porter for a while, but his boss convinced him to go back to school. He decided to attend a drama class at Stockton and Billingham College.

Subsequently, Griffiths earned a spot on BBC radio and worked in small theatres, sometimes acting, sometimes managing. But he built up a reputation as a Shakespearean "clown" with hilarious portrayals of characters such as Falstaff with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

After settling in Manchester, he began to get lead roles in plays and on television. His first big break was in a film It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet (1976), followed by roles in contemporary and period pieces such as Gorky Park (1983), Withnail And I (1987), The Smell Of Fear (1991), Guarding Tess (1994) and Sleepy Hollow (1999).

He was also seen as Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter series, and made an extended appearance in the 2005 version of Charles Dickens's Bleak HouseIn 2006, he starred with Daniel Ratcliffe (Harry Potter) in a stage revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

Last year he starred with Hollywood actor Danny DeVito in The Sunshine Boys in the West End.

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