'Harry Potter' actor Richard Griffiths dies at 65
Richard Griffiths of "The History Boys" poses for a picture with his Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in Play at the 60th Annual Tony Awards in this Sunday, June 11, 2006 file photo in New York. Griffiths, the British actor who played the boy wizard’s unsympathetic Uncle Vernon in the "Harry Potter" movies, has died. He was 65. Agent Simon Beresford announced Friday March 2013 that Griffiths died Thursday of complications following heart surgery at University Hospital of Coventry in central England. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
LONDON (AP) — Richard Griffiths was one of the great British stage actors of his generation, a heavy man with a light touch, whether in Shakespeare or Neil Simon. But for millions of movie fans, he will always be grumpy Uncle Vernon, the least magical of characters in the fantastical "Harry Potter" movies.
Griffiths died Thursday at University Hospital in Coventry, central England, from complications following heart surgery, his agent, Simon Beresford, said. He was 65.
"Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe paid tribute to the actor Friday, saying that "any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence."
"I am proud to say I knew him," Radcliffe said.
Griffiths won a Tony Award for "The History Boys" and appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. But he will be most widely remembered as a pair of contrasting uncles — Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon Dursley and Uncle Monty in cult film "Withnail and I."
Griffiths was among a huge roster of British acting talent to appear in the "Harry Potter" series of films released between 2001 and 2011.
FILE - From left, actors James Corden, Clive Merrison, Richard Griffiths and Stephen Campbell Moore take the curtain call at the opening night of the play The History Boys, in this Sunday, April 23, 2006 file photo in New York. Griffiths, the British actor who played the boy wizard’s unsympathetic Uncle Vernon in the "Harry Potter" movies, has died . He was 65. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh, file)
His role, as the grudging, magic-fearing guardian of orphaned wizard Harry, was small but pivotal. Griffiths once said he liked playing Uncle Vernon "because that gives me a license to be horrible to kids."
But Radcliffe recalled Griffiths' kindness to the young star.
"Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career," said Radcliffe, who in 2007 starred with Griffiths in a London and Broadway production of "Equus."
"In August 2000, before official production had even begun on 'Potter,' we filmed a shot outside the Dursleys', which was my first ever shot as Harry. I was nervous, and he made me feel at ease.
"Seven years later, we embarked on 'Equus' together. It was my first time doing a play, but, terrified as I was, his encouragement, tutelage and humor made it a joy."
Earlier, Griffiths was the louche, lecherous Uncle Monty to Richard E. Grant's character Withnail in "Withnail and I," a low-budget British comedy about two out-of-work actors that has become a cult classic. Years after its 1987 release, Griffiths said people would regularly shout Monty's most famous lines at him in the street.