Richard Griffiths, the Broadway and West End stage veteran best-known for his Tony and Olivier Award-winning performance as the eccentric English teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys has died in the United Kingdom following complications related to heart surgery. He was 65 years old.
Born on July 31, 1947 in Thornaby-on-Tees, England, Griffiths was the son of deaf parents who used sign language for communication. Upon graduating from the Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama, he began working on BBC Radio as well as acting and managing at several small theaters. Early in his career, he performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the comic roles of the Constable in The Comedy of Errors and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, among others. These led to screen roles in BBC television serial dramas such as Bird of Prey, and in films including The French Lieutenant's Woman and Chariots of Fire.
Griffiths was last seen on Broadway as the conflicted Dr. Martin Dysart starring opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Thea Sharrock's 2008 revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus, a production that transferred from London. Griffiths made his Broadway debut in 2006 when The History Boys, directed by Nicholas Hytner, moved to Broadway after an acclaimed run at London's Royal National Theatre. For his performance in that play, Griffiths received not only a Tony and an Olivier, but also Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. In 2009, Griffiths starred as the writer W.H. Auden in Bennett's The Habit of Art, also directed by Hytner at the National.
Although well-known for his stage performances, Griffiths was also a prolific screen veteran, appearing as the disillusioned Inspector Henry Crabbe in the drama Pie in the Sky, Uncle Monty in the 1987 dark comedy Withnail and I, and, opposite Radcliffe as Vernon Dursley in five of the eight Harry Potter films. Additional screen credits include Hugo, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the film version of The History Boys, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, and Superman II.
He last appeared on the London stage in 2012, when he and Danny DeVito starred as a pair of vaudevillians in Sharrock's revival of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. The pair was set to reunite for the revival's American debut at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in September 2013.
Griffiths, who was appointed as an Order of the British Empire in 2008, is survived by his wife, Heather Gibson, whom he met while performing in a 1973 production of Lady Windermere's Fan.