Potter and Withnail actor Richard Griffiths dies

Richard Griffiths
Image caption,
Richard Griffiths' detective show Pie in the Sky ran from 1994 to 1997

Actor Richard Griffiths, who starred in the Harry Potter films and Withnail and I, has died at the age of 65 after complications following heart surgery.

Griffiths enjoyed a long career of success on film and on TV, but also on the stage where he was a Tony-winning character actor.

TV roles included a cookery-loving detective in Pie in the Sky.

He was best known for playing Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films and Uncle Monty in Withnail and I.

His Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe - who also appeared on stage with him in Equus - was among the first to pay tribute, saying: "Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. I was proud to know him.

"Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence," he said.

On stage, Griffiths' most acclaimed performance was as the charismatic teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys.

After achieving a rare double of winning a Tony Award in New York and an Olivier Award in London, he recreated the role in a 2006 film version.

But it was his role as the predatory Uncle Monty in Withnail And I - which has become of one of the biggest cult classics in British cinema history - that made him a fan favourite.

In a message to his co-star on Twitter, the actor Richard E. Grant said: "My beloved Uncle Monty Richard Griffiths died last night. Chin-Chin my dear friend."

Griffiths was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire, and 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 TV career saw him land bit parts in series such as Minder, The Sweeney and Bergerac, while he also played small parts in major films such as Chariots of Fire, Superman II and Gandhi before the big breakthrough came in Withnail and I.

Media caption,

Director Sir Nicholas Hytner pays tribute to Richard Griffths' wit, intelligence and "endless" anecdotes

Well respected by his peers, he was appointed an OBE in the 2008 New Year Honours for his services to drama.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said Griffiths's unexpected death would devastate his "army of friends".

He said: "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.

"His anecdotes were legendary. They were, literally, endless. They would go on for hours, apparently without destination, constantly side-splitting."

In 2012 he appeared alongside Danny Devito in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at London's Savoy Theatre.

One of his most recent roles was in the drama Private Peaceful where he played The Colonel alongside Frances de la Tour and Maxine Peake.

Media caption,

Watch a clip from Withnail and I featuring actor Richard Griffiths

Actor Warwick Davis told BBC News he had the utmost respect for someone with such a great career.

"You got a great deal of support (as an actor) for having Richard about.

Media caption,

Richard Griffiths described the popularity of Withnail and I on Desert Island Discs, in 2006

"He was lovely, he would always make time for his fans, that's what makes a great actor, it's about having a good persona."

His agent Simon Beresford described him as a "remarkable man".

He said: "On stage he allowed us to share in our own humanity and constantly question our differences.

"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."