Richard Griffiths, the versatile British actor who played the boy wizard's unsympathetic Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies, died yesterday of complications following heart surgery in central England, his agent says. He was 65. Griffiths appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, but will be most widely remembered as a pair of contrasting uncles—the hero's grudging Muggle guardian in the Harry Potter series, and flamboyant Uncle Monty in 1980s cult classic Withnail and I.
A large man and a huge stage presence, Griffiths was one of Britain's leading theater actors, creating roles including the charismatic teacher Hector at the emotional heart of Alan Bennett's The History Boys—a part he took to Broadway, winning a Tony Award, and repeated for the film adaptation. "I was proud to say I knew him," said Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. "Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence."