Richard Griffiths

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Richard Griffiths
Born(1947-07-31)31 July 1947
Thornaby-on-Tees, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
Died28 March 2013(2013-03-28) (aged 65)
Coventry, West Midlands, England
Cause of death
Complications during heart surgery
EducationStockton & Billingham College
Alma materManchester School of Theatre
Years active1974–2013
Spouse(s)Heather Gibson (1980–2013; his death)
AwardsLaurence Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics, Tony Award
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For other people named Richard Griffiths, see Richard Griffiths (disambiguation).
Richard Griffiths
Born(1947-07-31)31 July 1947
Thornaby-on-Tees, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
Died28 March 2013(2013-03-28) (aged 65)
Coventry, West Midlands, England
Cause of death
Complications during heart surgery
EducationStockton & Billingham College
Alma materManchester School of Theatre
Years active1974–2013
Spouse(s)Heather Gibson (1980–2013; his death)
AwardsLaurence Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics, Tony Award

Richard Griffiths, OBE (31 July 1947 – 28 March 2013) was an English actor of stage, film and television. He received 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 and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, all for his role in the play The History Boys.

He also played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films, Uncle Monty in Withnail and I, Henry Crabbe in Pie in the Sky, and King George II in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. He also appeared as a British journalist in Richard Attenborough's Oscar-winning 1982 film Gandhi.

Early years[edit]

Griffiths was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, the son of Jane (née Denmark) and Thomas Griffiths. His father was a steelworker who also fought in pubs for money, while his mother's occupation was described as "bagger".[clarification needed][1][2] He and his brother John were raised in the Roman Catholic faith.[3][4] His parents were both deaf, and he learned sign language at an early age to communicate with them. During his childhood he attempted to run away from home many times. He dropped out of Our Lady & St Bede School, Stockton-On-Tees at age 15[5] and worked as a porter for Littlewoods for a while, but his boss eventually convinced him to go back to school. He decided to attend a drama class at Stockton & Billingham College.[5] He continued his education in drama at Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama (present-day Manchester School of Theatre).[6]


After graduating, Griffiths earned a spot on BBC Radio. He also worked in small theatres, sometimes acting and sometimes managing. He built up an early reputation as a Shakespearean clown with portrayals of the Constable in The Comedy of Errors and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and went on to play the King in Henry VIII.

He eventually settled in Manchester and began to get lead roles in plays. From there he began to appear on television and then got his big break in film in It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1975). By the early 1980s, he was selected for the lead role in the BBC drama serial Bird of Prey, an early computer-conspiracy thriller. His character, Henry Jay, was reprised in Bird of Prey 2 (1984). In 1981 he also gave a memorable performance as Chilean secret police victim William Beausire in an edition of the BBC Prisoners of Conscience series. He went on to supporting roles in a number of major films, including The French Lieutenant's Woman, Chariots of Fire, and Gandhi. On stage, in 1985–86 he performed the role of Verdi in Julian Mitchell's After Aida, in Wales and at the Old Vic Theatre in London.[citation needed]

Griffiths' film roles were in both contemporary and period pieces such as Gorky Park (1983), Withnail and I (1987), King Ralph (1991), The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), Guarding Tess (1994) and Sleepy Hollow (1999). Later, he was seen as Harry Potter's cruel uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Griffiths at the 2007 BAFTA Awards ceremony

He appeared as Inspector Henry Crabbe, disillusioned policeman and chef extraordinaire, in the British detective drama Pie in the Sky, a role which was created specifically for him. He also made an extended appearance in the 2005 version of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. In 2004, he originated the role of Hector (the teacher) in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, directed by Nicholas Hytner, winning the 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor. During the play's subsequent United States run, he added a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Tony Award. He reprised his role in the film version which was released in October 2006.

Together with his Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, he appeared in a stage revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus at the Gielgud Theatre in London, and later from October 2008 in a short run of the play at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway which ended in February 2009. Later in 2009 he replaced Michael Gambon as W.H. Auden prior to the premiere of The Habit of Art at the National Theatre, once again directed by Hytner.

Griffiths was considered for the part of the Doctor in Doctor Who following Tom Baker's departure in 1981, but was unavailable. He was strongly considered once again to take on the role of the Eighth Doctor, had the series continued past 1989.[7] Coincidentally, his two principal co-stars from Withnail and IPaul McGann and Richard E. Grant—went on to play the role in some capacity.[8] Griffiths has also performed in adaptations of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, providing the voice for Slartibartfast for the radio adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything and playing the Vogon Jeltz in the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He has also appeared in Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler, and as a special guest in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.

Griffiths asked a member of the audience to leave a performance of Heroes after her phone rang three times.[9] This interruption of a performance because of audience distraction happened three times in his career.[10][11]

Griffiths appeared as King George II in 2011's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.[12] He appeared in the first episode of the television series Episodes as Julian Bullard.

In April 2012, Griffiths starred, with Danny DeVito, in a revival of the Neil Simon play The Sunshine Boys. The show previewed at the Savoy Theatre from 27 April 2012, opening on 17 May and playing a limited 12-week season until 28 July.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Griffiths met Heather Gibson in 1973 and they married in 1980, a marriage which lasted the rest of his life.[14] The couple had no children.

He was awarded an honorary degree from Teesside University in 2006[5] and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.[15]


After heart surgery, on 28 March 2013 at University Hospital Coventry, Griffiths died of subsequent complications. He was 65 years old.[3][16]



1976It Shouldn't Happen to a VetSam
1980Breaking GlassStudio engineer
Superman IITerrorist No. 3
1981Chariots of FireHead Porter at Caius College
The French Lieutenant's WomanSir Tom
RagtimeDelmas' Assistant No. 1
1982Britannia HospitalCheerful Bernie
1983Gorky ParkAnton
1984Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesCaptain Billings
A Private FunctionHenry Allardyce the Accountant
1986Shanghai SurpriseWillie Tuttle
1987Withnail and IUncle Monty
1991King RalphDuncan Phipps
The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of FearDr. Albert S. Meinheimer/Earl Hacker
1992Blame It on the BellboyMaurice Horton
1994Guarding TessFrederick
1995Funny BonesJim Minty
1997The Warrens
1999Sleepy HollowMagistrate Philipse
Casper & Spooky
2000VatelDr. Bourdelot
2001Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneVernon Dursley
2002Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsVernon Dursley
2004Stage BeautySir Charles Sedley
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanVernon Dursley
2005The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyJeltzVoice
The History BoysHector
2007Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixVernon Dursley
2008Bedtime StoriesBarry Nottingham
2010Jackboots on WhitehallHermann GöringVoice
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1Vernon Dursley
2011Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesKing George
HugoMonsieur Frick
2012Private PeacefulThe Colonel
2013About TimeSir TomFinal film released after his death


1974Crown CourtInterpreterEpisode 3.31: "Duress: Part 1"
Village HallMr. RidealghEpisode 1.1: "Mr. Ellis Versus the People"
ITV PlayhousePark keeperEpisode 7.2: "Norma"
1976When the Boat Comes InP.C. PriceEpisode 1.1 "A Land Fit for Heroes and Idiots"
Red Letter DayWindow cleanerEpisode 1.3: "Well Thank You, Thursday"
The ExpertRipleyEpisode 4.10: "Tainted Money"
1977Second City FirstsEpisode 8.1: "Twelve Off the Belt"
ITV PlayhouseBoard memberEpisode 9.10: "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll"
1978The Comedy of ErrorsOfficerTV play
The SweeneyRonnie HarriesEpisode 4.14: "Jack or Knave"
1979Afternoon OffMr. TurnbullTV play
1980Nobody's PerfectSam Hooper
1981Prisoners of ConscienceWilliam BeausireEpisode 1.1: "William Beausire"
1982MinderDerek FarrowEpisode 3.5: "Dreamhouse"
Whoops ApocalypsePremier DubienkinEpisode 1.6: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"
Bird of PreyHenry JayTV mini-series; all four episodes
The World Cup: A Captain's TaleSidney BarronTV film
Five-Minute FilmsThe Window CleanerEpisode: "A Light Snack"
The Merry Wives of WindsorSir John FalstaffTV film
1983The CleopatrasPot BellyTV mini-series; three episodes
BergeracJean-PierreEpisode 2.6: "Fall of a Birdman"
1984Bird of Prey 2Henry JayTV mini-series; all four episodes
1986BoonSidney GarbuttEpisode 1.6: "Glasshouse People"
The Raggy Dolls
1987CasanovaCardinalTV film
FfizzJack Mowbray
The MarksmanBrownTV mini-series
1988–1990A Kind of LivingTrevor Beasley15 episodes
1989GoldeneyeSecond admiralTV film
1991Perfect ScoundrelsPhil KirbyEpisode 2.1: "Ssh, You Know Who"
1992El C.I.D.WeatherbyEpisode 3.2: "Nothing Is Forever"
The Good GuysArchie PhillipsEpisode 1.8: "Going West"
Mr. Wakefield's CrusadePorterTV film
1993Inspector MorseCanon Humphrey AppletonEpisode 7.2: "The Day of the Devil"
LovejoyHans KoopmanEpisode 4.9: "They Call Me Midas"
1994A Breed of HeroesTV film
1994–1995The World of Peter Rabbit and FriendsMr. Alderman Ptolomy Tortoise
Mr. Jackson
Sir Isaac Newton
Two episodes; voice
1994–1997Pie in the SkyHenry CrabbeAll 40 episodes
1998In the RedGeoffrey Crichton-PotterEpisode 1.3
The Canterbury TalesSaturnEpisode 1.1: "Leaving London"; voice
Oi! Get Off Our TrainElephantTV short; voice
Ted & RalphLandowner at PartyTV film
1998–2000Archibald the KoalaArchibaldAll 52 episodes; voice[17]
1999The Vicar of DibleyBishop of MulberryEpisode 3.17: "Spring"
2000GormenghastSwelterTV mini-series; two episodes
Hope and GloryLeo WheeldonTwo episodes
2002TLCMr Benedict Ron
Jeffrey Archer: The TruthWillie WhitelawTV film
2003The Brides in the BathSir Edward Marshall HallTV film
2005Princes in the TowerSir Thomas MoreTV film; voice
Bleak HouseMr. Bayham BadgerTV mini-series; two episodes
2007Ballet ShoesGreat Uncle MatthewTV film
2008A Muppets Christmas: Letters to SantaSanta ClausTV film
2010National Theatre LiveFitz / W.H. AudenTV play: The Habit of Art
2011George and Bernard ShawBernardEpisode 1.1: "Pilot"
EpisodesJulian BullardEpisode 1.1: "Episode One"
2012The Hollow CrownDuke of BurgundyTV film


  1. ^ "Richard Griffiths Biography". 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  2. ^ "Richard Griffiths". The Daily Telegraph (London). 29 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Topping, Alexandra (29 March 2013). "Richard Griffiths, uncle to Withnail and Harry Potter, dies aged 65". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Laurence, Charles. "Part 3 of Griffiths interview". Saga Magazine. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c "Richard Griffith Dies". Teesside Evening Gazette. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "Alumni profile". The Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre web site. 
  7. ^ "BBC Archive: Nearly Who". BBC. 
  8. ^ "Richard Griffiths BBC profile". Drama Faces. BBC. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2007. 
  9. ^ "Actor snaps over ring mobile". BBC News. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2007. 
  10. ^ "Richard Griffiths". Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (30 September 2006). "A break in the clouds". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Exclusive: Pirates 4 News From Rush". Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Kemp, Stuart. "Danny DeVito to Make West End Debut in 'The Sunshine Boys'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  14. ^ Farndale, Nigel (25 February 2007). "Big unfriendly giant". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "New Years Honours List". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  16. ^ "Potter and Withnail actor Richard Griffiths dies". BBC Online. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  17. ^ "BFI – ARCHIBALD THE KOALA 04/09/98". British Film Institute. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 

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