'My beloved Uncle Monty': Tributes pour in for Withnail And I actor Richard Griffiths following death at 65
Born in North Yorkshire, Griffiths was famous for his roles in the Harry Potter series, Withnail And I, and The History Boys
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 29 March 2013
He was an actor of brilliant oratorical talent, despite being born to mute parents who needed him to learn sign language before he could talk. Now, Richard Griffiths has himself been silenced. The plaudits offered to the life and career of the Withnail And I star – who has died at the age of 65 – could not have been louder.
Famed among younger generations for his role in the Harry Potter films, he was hailed as “one of the very greatest” British actors, who won fans of all ages for a string of memorable roles in television, film and theatre. His death, at the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire on Thursday, followed complications from heart surgery.
Griffiths’s turn as Uncle Monty in Withnail And I, which initially flopped before attracting a cult following, remains one of his best-loved performances. Richard E Grant, who played Withnail, called him “my beloved Uncle Monty” on Twitter and added: “Chin-chin, dear friend.” Paul McGann, who also starred in the film, said: “A mighty tree has fallen.”
Sir Nicholas Hytner, who directed Griffiths in stage and screen versions of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, said: “[He] wasn’t only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors – he was also one of the very greatest. His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often all at once.”
The play enjoyed huge success in the UK and internationally. Griffiths first won an Olivier Award for the West End production and a Tony Award when it transferred to Broadway.
He also played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films. Daniel Radcliffe said working with him on the series about the boy wizard, and later in the play Equus, was “a joy”. Thea Sharrock, who directed Griffiths in Equus and last year’s revival of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys, called him a “tender, gentle, kind, generous, loving man”.
While Griffiths’s varied performances thrilled audiences, from detective-turned-chef in Pie In The Sky on television, to the film farce Naked Gun 2½ and Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art at the National Theatre, colleagues also hailed his gregarious nature off screen. Radcliffe added: “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.”
Sir Nicholas added that Griffiths was “the life of every party” and his “anecdotes were legendary”.
He was also forthright, especially about disruptions to stage shows. Three times in his career, he broke off mid-line to berate hapless audience members whose mobile phones went off during his performances. Griffiths, who called his upbringing in Stockton-on-Tees one of “Dickensian poverty”, was born in Thornaby in 1947, the son of a steel fixer. Pursuing acting against his father’s wishes, he was spotted in 1974 by the director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Trevor Nunn, and spent a decade there.
Griffiths married Heather Gibson in 1980, seven years after they appeared together in Lady Windermere’s Fan.
- 1 Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin file for divorce after 10 years of marriage
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 4 Bookies now say Ed Miliband is more likely to be prime minister than David Cameron
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin file for divorce after 10 years of marriage
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This winner of the best new business in shrops...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a highly or...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultan...
£22000 - £25900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is expanding and th...