Character actor extraordinaire Richard Griffiths, best known as Harry Potter’s stuffy and wizard-hating muggle Uncle Vernon Dursley died Thursday due to complications following heart surgery.
“No Post On Sunday!”
Griffiths’ agent Simon Beresford made the official announcement earlier today and said that Griffiths was “a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors.”
Griffiths made Uncle Vernon the man you loved to hate and would laugh at heartily even when saying something as simple as the word “justice.”
Cherishing his role as the unsympathetic and begrudging guardian to Harry Potter “because it gave me a license to be horrible to kids,” anyone who’s ever worked with Griffiths had nothing but lovely things to say about him; Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe included.
“Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. In August 2000, before official production had even begun on (the first) 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.”
Leaving school at 15 and later spending a decade with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Griffiths became known for taking parts like that of the oafish, hard-drinking Falstaff and making them his own.
But the theatre-kid in me will always relish the fact that he was also well known for shaming audience members for leaving their cell phones on during a performance. After someone’s phone had rung for the THIRD time during a Broadway performance of Alan Bennett’s The HIstory Boys (for which he won a Tony), Griffiths looked straight at the guilty party and sternly said: “I am not going to compete with these electronic devices. You were told to turn them off by the stage manager; you were told it was against the law. If we hear one more phone go off, we’ll quit this performance. You have been warned.”
Those not of the Harry Potter vein may also recognize Griffiths from films such as Ghandi, Chariots Of Fire, or as the uber (and FABULOUSLY) gay Uncle Monty from one of my personal faves, the 1987 film Withnail And I.
(NSFW for language, btw.)
Griffiths’ last stage role was a West End production (England) with Danny DeVito in Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Sunshine Boys (made famous by Walter Matthau and George Burns) and before his death, he and DeVito were set to reprise said roles for a theatre run in Los Angeles later this year.
There is NO DOUBT Richard Griffiths’ passing will stir up memories of some of his finest roles and a revisit to Withnail and I and the Harry Potter saga for myself and many others. He was just a clever, clever man with EXCELLENT comedic timing.
Daniel Radcliffe said it best of Griffiths when he said “Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence.”
Before I say goodbye, I’m just gonna leave ONE more clip from The Naked Gun 2 1/2 that is so ridiculous it’s hilarious.
Farewell, you charming devil; you will be missed.
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