History Boys actor Richard Griffiths dies after heart surgery, age 65
Amongst the first to pay tribute was Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe co-starred with Richard Griffiths onscreen in the Harry Potter films and then reunited with him onstage in 2007 in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, which marked Radcliffe’s Whatsonstage.com Award-winning stage debut and subsequently transferred to Broadway.
Radcliffe recalled: "In August 2000, before official production had even begun on 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," he said. "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 humour made it a joy. In fact, 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."
Despite his high-wattage co-stars in Equus and The Sunshine Boys, Griffiths will be best remembered by most theatre fans for playing inspirational teacher Hector in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. He appeared in the play’s world premiere at the National Theatre in 2004, alongside a then-unknown cast of young actors playing the students, including James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker.
He won a clutch of Best Actor gongs in London – at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Olivier Awards – for the role and went on to star, along with the rest of the company, in the play’s Broadway premiere – for which he added the 2006 Tony Award for Best Actor to his mantelpiece– and in that year’s film version, both also helmed by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner.
In 2009, Griffiths returned to the National Theatre, care of Hytner and Alan Bennett, to play poet WH Auden in Bennett’s new play The Habit of Art, filling in for Michael Gambon who had to withdraw after illness.
Nicholas Hytner said: "Richard Griffiths wasn't only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors – he was also one of the very greatest."
Griffiths’ other stage credits included: Heroes, Art, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Luther, Katherine Howard and numerous appearance at the Royal Shakespeare Company earlier in his career.
On screen, in addition to Harry Potter, he was well known for his role as the lecherous Uncle Monty, alongside Richard E Grant and Paul McGann in cult classic Withnail and I and his other credits included Pie in the Sky, A Kind of Living, Chariots of Fire, Private Peaceful, Bleak House, The Hollow Crown and Bird of Prey
Griffiths was born on 31 July 1947 in Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire. He was appointed an OBE in the 2008 New Year Honours list.