Richard Thomas Griffiths, OBE (31 July 1947 – 28 March 2013) was an English actor of film, television, and stage. 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 the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, all for his role in The History Boys. For the 2006 film adaptation, Griffiths was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
He is also known for his portrayal of Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter film series, Uncle Monty in Withnail and I (1987), Dr. Albert Meinheimer in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), Henry Crabbe in Pie in the Sky (1994–1997) and King George II in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Earlier in his career, he had a prominent supporting role as British journalist Collins in Richard Attenborough's Academy Award-winning film Gandhi (1982).
Griffiths was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Riding of Yorkshire, 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". He and his brother John were raised in the Roman Catholic faith.
His parents were both deaf, and he learned sign language at an early age in order 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 in Stockton-On-Tees at age 15  and worked as a porter for Littlewoods for a while, but his boss eventually persuaded him to go back to school. He decided to attend a drama class at Stockton & Billingham College. He continued his education in drama at Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama (present-day Manchester School of Theatre).
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After graduating, Griffiths won a contract on BBC Radio with their Radio Drama Company. He also worked in small theatres, sometimes acting and sometimes managing. He built up an early reputation as a Shakespearean clown with portrayals of Pompey in Measure for Measure and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream 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 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. Griffiths 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. He appeared in The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.
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, appearing in five of the eight films: Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, and Deathly Hallows – Part 1.
He appeared as Inspector Henry Crabbe, disillusioned policeman and pie chef extraordinaire, in 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, 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. Coincidentally, his two principal co-stars from Withnail and I — Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant — both went on to play the role in some capacity. He 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 appeared in Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler and as a special guest in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.
In 2005 he asked a member of the audience to leave a performance of Heroes after her phone rang three times. This interruption of a performance because of audience distraction happened three times in his career.
Griffiths appeared as King George II in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. 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.
Griffiths met Heather Gibson in 1973 and they married in 1980. They had no children.
Griffiths died aged 65 at the University Hospital Coventry on 28 March 2013 after complications following heart surgery. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Bearley, Warwickshire.
|1977||It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet||Sam Broadbent|
|1980||Breaking Glass||Studio engineer|
|Superman II||Terrorist #3|
|1981||Chariots of Fire||Head Porter at Caius College|
|The French Lieutenant's Woman||Sir Tom|
|Ragtime||Delmas' Assistant No. 1|
|1982||Britannia Hospital||Cheerful Bernie|
|1984||Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes||Captain Billings|
|A Private Function||Henry Allardyce the Accountant|
|1986||Shanghai Surprise||Willie Tuttle|
|1987||Withnail and I||Uncle Monty|
|1991||King Ralph||Duncan Phipps|
|The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear||Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer / Earl Hacker|
|1992||Blame It on the Bellboy||Maurice Horton|
|1995||Funny Bones||Jim Minty|
|1999||Sleepy Hollow||Magistrate Philipse|
|Casper & Spooky|
|2001||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone||Vernon Dursley|
|2002||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||Vernon Dursley|
|2004||Stage Beauty||Sir Charles Sedley|
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||Vernon Dursley|
|2005||The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Jeltz||Voice|
|The History Boys||Hector|
|2007||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||Vernon Dursley|
|2008||Bedtime Stories||Barry Nottingham|
|2010||National Theatre Live: The Habit of Art||Fitz / W.H. Auden|
|Jackboots on Whitehall||Hermann Göring||Voice|
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1||Vernon Dursley|
|2011||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||King George II|
|2012||Private Peaceful||The Colonel|
|2013||About Time||Defense Lawyer in play (Thomas Serwell)||Posthumous release, Uncredited, (final film role)|
|1974||Crown Court||Interpreter||Episode 3.31: "Duress: Part 1"|
|Village Hall||Mr. Ridealgh||Episode 1.1: "Mr. Ellis Versus the People"|
|ITV Playhouse||Park keeper||Episode 7.2: "Norma"|
|1976||When the Boat Comes In||P.C. Price||Episode 1.1 "A Land Fit for Heroes and Idiots"|
|Red Letter Day||Window cleaner||Episode 1.3: "Well Thank You, Thursday"|
|The Expert||Ripley||Episode 4.10: "Tainted Money"|
|1977||Second City Firsts||Episode 8.1: "Twelve Off the Belt"|
|ITV Playhouse||Board member||Episode 9.10: "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll"|
|1978||The Comedy of Errors||Officer||TV play|
|The Sweeney||Ronnie Harries||Episode 4.14: "Jack or Knave"|
|1979||Afternoon Off||Mr. Turnbull||TV play|
|1980||Nobody's Perfect||Sam Hooper|
|1981||Prisoners of Conscience||William Beausire||Episode 1.1: "William Beausire"|
|1982||Minder||Derek Farrow||Episode 3.5: "Dreamhouse"|
|Whoops Apocalypse||Premier Dubienkin||Episode 1.6: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun"|
|Bird of Prey||Henry Jay||TV mini-series; all four episodes|
|The World Cup: A Captain's Tale||Sidney Barron||TV film|
|Five-Minute Films||The Window Cleaner||Episode: "A Light Snack"|
|The Merry Wives of Windsor||Sir John Falstaff||TV film|
|1983||The Cleopatras||Pot Belly||TV mini-series; three episodes|
|Bergerac||Jean-Pierre||Episode 2.6: "Fall of a Birdman"|
|1984||Bird of Prey 2||Henry Jay||TV mini-series; all four episodes|
|1985||Bleak House||Mr Bayham Badger||BBC TV serial|
|1986||Boon||Sidney Garbutt||Episode 1.6: "Glasshouse People"|
|The Raggy Dolls|
|The Marksman||Brown||TV mini-series|
|1988-1990||A Kind of Living||Trevor Beasley||15 episodes|
|1989||Goldeneye||Second admiral||TV film|
|1989||Bookmark: Plum, A Portrait of P.G. Wodehouse||voice of P.G. Wodehouse||TV documentary|
|1991||Perfect Scoundrels||Phil Kirby||Episode 2.1: "Ssh, You Know Who"|
|1992||El C.I.D.||Weatherby||Episode 3.2: "Nothing Is Forever"|
|The Good Guys||Archie Phillips||Episode 1.8: "Going West"|
|Mr. Wakefield's Crusade||Porter||TV film|
|1993||Inspector Morse||Canon Humphrey Appleton||Episode 7.2: "The Day of the Devil"|
|Lovejoy||Hans Koopman||Episode 4.9: "They Call Me Midas"|
|1994||A Breed of Heroes||TV film|
|1994-1995||The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends||Mr. Alderman Ptolomy Tortoise
Sir Isaac Newton
|Two episodes; voice|
|1994-1997||Pie in the Sky||Henry Crabbe||All 40 episodes|
|1998||In the Red||Geoffrey Crichton-Potter||Episode 1.3|
|The Canterbury Tales||Saturn||Episode 1.1: "Leaving London"; voice|
|Oi! Get Off Our Train||Elephant||TV short; voice|
|Ted & Ralph||Landowner at Party||TV film|
|1998-2000||Archibald the Koala||Archibald||All 52 episodes; voice|
|1999||The Vicar of Dibley||Bishop of Mulberry||Episode 3.17: "Spring"|
|2000||Gormenghast||Swelter||TV mini-series; two episodes|
|Hope and Glory||Leo Wheeldon||Two episodes|
|2002||TLC||Mr Benedict Ron|
|Jeffrey Archer: The Truth||Willie Whitelaw||TV film|
|2003||The Brides in the Bath||Sir Edward Marshall Hall||TV film|
|2005||Princes in the Tower||Sir Thomas More||TV film; voice|
|Bleak House||Mr. Bayham Badger||TV mini-series; two episodes|
|2007||Ballet Shoes||Great Uncle Matthew||TV film|
|2008||A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa||Santa Claus||TV film|
|2010||National Theatre Live||Fitz / W.H. Auden||TV play: The Habit of Art|
|2011||George and Bernard Shaw||Bernard||Episode 1.1: "Pilot"|
|Episodes||Julian Bullard||Episode 1.1: "Episode One"|
|2012||The Hollow Crown – Henry V||Duke of Burgundy||TV film|
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