Richard Griffiths

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Richard Griffiths, the veteran British character actor best known for playing the heartless Uncle Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter movies, has died. He was 65.

According to Sky News, Griffiths passed away on Thursday from complications following heart surgery.

His Harry Potter costars remembered him as a kind and gentle mentor with a gift for storytelling.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played the titular boy magician, paid tribute to Griffiths, who was there the first day he set foot on the set of the fantasy franchise.

"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," said Radcliffe in a statement. "I was nervous, and he made me feel at ease."

He continued: "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 humor 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."

Harry Melling, the actor who played Vernon's muggle son, Dudley Dursley, also praised him.

"Sad news today. What a beautiful man. Beautiful actor. Thoughts and love to anyone who was lucky enough to have listened to one his stories," tweeted Melling.

Aside from earning fame in Harry Potter, Griffiths was perhaps best known Stateside for such movies as Chariots of Fire, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Gandhi, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesWithnail and I, Goldeneye and The Naked Gun 2 1/2, among many others.

He also made forays into television, most notably starring in the mid-'90s BBC series Pie In the Sky playing a detective turned chef.

Griffiths' stage work was just as memorable. Perhaps his most famous performance was playing teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys, for which he accomplished the rather rare feat of winning a Tony Award in New York and an Olivier Award in London. He later went on to reprise the role in a 2006 big-screen version and was honored with an OBE in 2008 for his services to drama.

Last year, the portly actor appeared with Danny Devito in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at London's Savoy Theatre and was slated to headline a Los Angeles version of the production, set for September.

Griffiths is survived by his wife, Heather Gibson.

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