Richard Griffiths (July 31, 1947 – March 28, 2013) was an English actor of stage, film and television. He has received the Laurence Olivier for Best Actor, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor, and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, all for his role in the play The History Boys in London and on Broadway. Griffiths is also known for his portrayal as Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films, Uncle Monty in Withnail and I, and Henry Crabbe in the British TV series Pie in the Sky. Richard Griffiths portrayed King George II in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Richard Griffiths was born in Thornaby-on-Tees, Stockton, England. His father was a steelworker, while his mother's occupation was described as "bagger". He was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. His parents were both deaf, and he learned sign language at an early age in order to communicate with them. During his childhood he attempted to run away from home many times. He dropped out of Our Lady & St Bede School at age 15 and worked as a porter for a while, but his boss eventually convinced him to go back to school. He decided to attend drama classes at Stockton & Billingham College. He continued his education in drama at Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama, now known as the Manchester School of Theatre.
After graduating, Griffiths earned a spot on BBC Radio, also working in small theaters as an actor and manager. He built up an early reputation as a Shakespearean clown with portrayals of the Constable in The Comedy of Errors and Falstaff The Merry Wives of Windsor, and went on to play the King in Henry VIII at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Griffiths made his television debut in 1974 in Crown Court, and one year later appeared in his first feature film, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet. By the early 1980s, he was selected for the lead role in the BBC drama serial Bird of Prey and supporting roles in a number of major films, including The French Lieutenant's Woman, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi. On stage, in 1985-86, he performed the role of Verdi in Julian Mitchell's After Aida in Wales and at the Old Vic Theatre in London. Griffiths' other stage credits have included Luther at the National Theatre, Art at the Wyndham's, The Man Who Came to Dinner and Katherine Howard at Chichester and Heartbreak House, Galileo and Rules of the Game at the Almeida Theatre.
Griffiths' more recognized film roles were both contemporary and period pieces, such as Gorky Park, Withnail and I, King Ralph, The Naked Gun 2-1/2: The Smell of Fear, Guarding Tess, Sleepy Hollow, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Venus and Bedtime Stories. He also portrayed Harry Potter's magic-disliking uncle Vernon Dursley in several installments of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. Most recently, Griffiths appeared in the premiere of Episodes on television and in Martin Scorsese's film Hugo Cabret.
On television, the role of Inspector Henry Crabbe was created especially for Griffiths in the British detective drama Pie in the Sky. He also made an extended appearance in the 2005 version of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. In 2004, he originated the multiple-award-winning role of Hector in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, directed by Nicholas Hytner. He reprised the role in the film version which was released in 2006. Together with Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter, he appeared in a stage revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus at the Gielgud Theatre in London and later in October 2008 in a short run of the play at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway. In 2009, Griffiths appeared as W.H. Auden in The Habit of Art at the National Theatre, again directed by Hytner.
Pirates of the CaribbeanEdit
For filming Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Richard Griffiths portrayed King George II. This would be his second collaboration with Johnny Depp, the first being in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow; though Depp was also a fan of Griffiths' work on Withnail and I. His scene at King George's lavish dining room took place at a built set piece on R Stage at Pinewood Studios. With great Shakespearean actors Roger Allam (Prime Minister Henry Pelham) and Anton Lesser (Lord John Carteret) on either side of Richard Griffiths, the scene gave Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon a run for the money in period authenticity and detail.
Actor Geoffrey Rush (who filmed with Griffiths in-character as Barbossa) was particularly impressed with the London shoot, where King George II's actual Greenwich residence was recreated in the studio, stating that it gave a sense of weight and importance to Griffiths as King George. Rush also said that having Griffiths, along with Roger Allam and Anton Lesser, and giving them that scale of set "really elevated the significance of that part of the story."
Later life and DeathEdit
Richard Griffiths was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours. He was married to Heather Gibson. Richard Griffiths died at the University Hospital Coventry on March 28, 2013, from complications following heart surgery at the age of 65.