Harry Potter actor Richard Griffiths dies aged 65

Richard Griffiths
Richard Griffiths Photo: Suzan/Suzan/EMPICS Entertainment

One of Britain's best-loved character actors, Richard Griffiths, has died at the age of 65 from complications following heart surgery.

Apart from his role as Harry Potter's sadistic Uncle Vernon - he was perhaps best known for his portrayal as Monty in the 1987 film Withnail and I.

ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie looks back on his career:

He won numerous awards in an acting career spanning almost four decades, most notably for his role as the teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys. He was awarded an OBE for services to drama in 2007.

Those who knew him remembered him for his warmth and "legendary anecdotes" as much as for his professional achievements.

Richard Griffiths is made an OBE by The Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2008
Richard Griffiths is made an OBE by The Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2008 Credit: Martin Keene/PA Archive/Press Association Images

His currency as an actor was truth; as a colleague it was hilarity.

His anecdotes were legendary. They were, literally, endless. They would go on for hours, apparently without destination, constantly side-splitting.

The only way to stop them was to tell him you were walking away, though there were always others in the audience so, as far as I know, he never stopped.

– Sir Nicholas Hytner, director, national theatre
Richard Griffiths at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Richard Griffiths at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Credit: Ian West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Griffiths was born on July 31 1947 in Thornaby-on-Tees, the son of a steelworker. His parents were both deaf and he learned sign language at an early age so he could communicate with them.

He developed an ear for dialects which subsequently landed him with several ethnic roles.

In his childhood, he attempted to run away from home many times and dropped out of school to work as a porter, before his boss convinced him to go back to studying.

He eventually decided to attend a drama class at Stockton and Billingham College and began acting, and soon landed roles on BBC radio in small theatre productions.

England football manager Steve McClaren (L) and Richard Griffiths receive honorary degrees at the University of Teeside
England football manager Steve McClaren (L) and Richard Griffiths receive honorary degrees at the University of Teeside Credit: Ian West/PA Wire

He built up a reputation as a Shakespearean "clown" with hilarious portrayals of characters such as Falstaff with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

After settling in Manchester, he got his first big break in a film called It Shouldn't Happen To A Vet (1976).

This was followed by roles in contemporary and period pieces such as Gorky Park (1983), Withnail And I (1987), The Smell Of Fear (1991), and Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Many will remember him for his portrayal of Inspector Henry Crabbe, a disillusioned policeman and pie chef, in the TV detective series Pie In The Sky.

Most recently, he starred alongside Hollywood actor Danny DeVito in The Sunshine Boys in the West End last year.

Griffiths was also well-known as an actor who took a strong line against members of theatre audiences whose mobile telephones rang out during performances.

At least twice, he was known to have stopped a show to order people out of the theatre after their phones had persistently rung.