The British cinema has lost one of its most memorable character actors: Richard Griffiths, best known as the ill-tempered Uncle Vernon Dursley in the "Harry Potter" series, died Thursday night as a result of complications following heart surgery.
Griffiths was 65 years old.
Like many of his colleagues in the "Harry Potter" stock company, Griffiths had a long and rich career as an actor. Early on, he was a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company and won acclaim for his performances in "Henry VIII" (in the title role) and "The Merry Wives Of Windsor" (as Falstaff). Griffiths made his television debut in 1974 with a small role on the British series "Crown Court," and moved to the big screen in 1977, playing Sam in a screen adaptation of James Herriot's book "It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet" (published in America as "All Things Bright and Beautiful").
Griffiths worked steadily in movies from the 1980s onward, performing on over three dozens feature films, and was a frequent presence of UK television screens, starring in the successful series "Pie In The Sky" from 1994 to 1997. But he never gave up his first love, the stage. Griffiths appeared in the original London production of "The History Boys" in 2004 and followed the show to Broadway, he starred last year in a British revival of "The Odd Couple" opposite Danny DeVito, and played in a celebrated production of "Equus" with his "Harry Potter" co-star Daniel Radcliffe in the lead. While Griffiths was hardly friendly to Harry Potter as Uncle Vernon (he once joked that he enjoyed the role because "that gives me a license to be horrible to kids"), offstage Radcliffe was fond of the veteran actor, saying Friday, "Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence." Radcliffe also told BBC News, "Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. I was proud to know him." Griffiths is survived by his wife, Heather Gibson; they fittingly met when the two were both playing in a production of "Lady Windermere's Fan."
In tribute to the great Richard Griffiths, here's a sampling of some of his best film work that shows off his talent and distinctive presence.