History Boys star Richard Griffiths dies aged 65

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Richard Griffiths, winner of Olivier and Tony awards and star of stage hit The History Boys, has died at the age of 65.

His death followed complications arising from heart surgery at the University Hospital in Coventry yesterday.

Griffiths found early success with the Royal Shakespeare Company before securing the lead in the BBC’s 1983 computer-conspiracy drama Bird of Prey. He went on to play the predatory Uncle Monty in Bruce Robinson’s 1987 film Withnail and I.

He appeared in five films in the Harry Potter franchise, as the child-wizard's mean-spirited Uncle Vernon and reprised his role as the charismatic teacher Hector in the 2006 film version of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys – a performance that had won him a clutch of awards on stage in London and New York.

Last year, he appeared in the West End alongside Hollywood star Danny DeVito in a revival of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys at the Savoy Theatre.

On television, he starred in the long-running BBC comedy drama Pie in the Sky playing an idealistic but disillusioned policeman with a passion for food.

National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner, who directed Griffiths in The History Boys and in The Habit of Art in 2009, said: “Richard Griffiths wasn't only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors – he was also one of the very greatest. His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously”.

His agent, Simon Beresford, said: “Richard gave acting a good name. He was a remarkable man and one of our greatest and best-loved actors. He will be greatly missed.”

A full obituary will appear in a later edition of The Stage.