Richard Griffiths

For other people named Richard Griffiths, see Richard Griffiths (disambiguation).
Richard Griffiths

Griffiths at the London premiere of Hugo on 28 November 2011
Born Richard Thomas Griffiths
(1947-07-31)31 July 1947
Thornaby-on-Tees, North Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died 28 March 2013(2013-03-28) (aged 65)
Coventry, West Midlands,
Cause of death Complications following heart surgery
Residence Coventry, West Midlands, England
Education Stockton & Billingham College
Alma mater Manchester School of Theatre
Occupation Actor
Years active 1974–2012
Spouse(s) Heather Gibson
(m. 1980–2013; his death)
Awards Laurence Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics, Tony Award

Richard Thomas Griffiths, OBE (31 July 1947 – 28 March 2013)[1][2] 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).

Early years

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".[3][4] He and his brother John were raised in the Roman Catholic faith.[1][5]

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 [6] 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.[6] He continued his education in drama at Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama (present-day Manchester School of Theatre).[7]


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 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.[8] Coincidentally, his two principal co-stars from Withnail and IPaul McGann and Richard E. Grant — both went on to play the role in some capacity.[9] 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.

He asked a member of the audience to leave a performance of Heroes after her phone rang three times.[10] This interruption of a performance because of audience distraction happened three times in his career.[11][12]

Griffiths appeared as King George II in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.[13] 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.[14]

Personal life

Griffiths met Heather Gibson in 1973 and they married in 1980.[15] They had no children.

Griffiths was awarded an honorary degree from Teesside University in 2006[6] and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.[16]


Griffiths died aged 65 at the University Hospital Coventry on 28 March 2013 after complications following heart surgery.[1][2]



Year Title Role Notes
1977 It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet Sam
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
Gandhi Collins
1983 Gorky Park Anton
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
1994 Guarding Tess Frederick
1995 Funny Bones Jim Minty
1997 The Warrens
1999 Sleepy Hollow Magistrate Philipse
Casper & Spooky
2000 Vatel Dr. Bourdelot
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
Opa! Tierrney
2006 Venus Donald
The History Boys Hector
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Vernon Dursley
2008 Bedtime Stories Barry Nottingham
2010 Jackboots on Whitehall Hermann Goering Voice
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 Vernon Dursley
2011 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides King George
Hugo Monsieur Frick
2012 Private Peaceful The Colonel
2013 About Time Defense Lawyer in play (Thomas Serwell) Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
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
1986 Boon Sidney Garbutt Episode 1.6: "Glasshouse People"
The Raggy Dolls
1987 Casanova Cardinal TV film
Ffizz Jack Mowbray
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[17]
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
Mr. Jackson
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[18]
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


  1. 1 2 3 Topping, Alexandra (29 March 2013). "Richard Griffiths, uncle to Withnail and Harry Potter, dies aged 65". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Potter and Withnail actor Richard Griffiths dies". BBC Online. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  3. "Richard Griffiths Biography". 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  4. "Richard Griffiths". Telegraph. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  5. Laurence, Charles. "Part 3 of Griffiths interview". Saga Magazine. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  6. 1 2 3 "Richard Griffith Dies". Teeside Evening Gazette. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  7. "Alumni profile". The Manchester Metropolitan University School of Theatre web site.
  8. "BBC Archive: Nearly Who". BBC.
  9. "Richard Griffiths BBC profile". Drama Faces. BBC. Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  10. "Actor snaps over ring mobile". BBC News. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  11. "Richard Griffiths". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  12. Burkeman, Oliver (30 September 2006). "A break in the clouds". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  13. "Exclusive: Pirates 4 News From Rush". Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  14. Kemp, Stuart. "Danny DeVito to Make West End Debut in 'The Sunshine Boys'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  15. Farndale, Nigel (25 February 2007). "Big unfriendly giant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  16. "New Years Honours List". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  17. "PG Wodehouse - Plum - Bookmark - BBC Documentary - 1989". BBC2. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  18. "BFI – ARCHIBALD THE KOALA 04/09/98". British Film Institute. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
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