British character actor Richard Griffiths came from radio and the classical stage where he built up an early reputation as a Shakespearean clown, with larger-than-life portrayals of Henry VIII, Falstaff in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the Royal Shakespeare Company just a few of his standout credits. The son of deaf parents, he learned sign language at an early age and, interestingly enough, developed a talent for dialects which allowed him to show off in a number of ethnic portrayals. In films from 1975 both here and abroad, his better roles have been in both contemporary and period pieces, such as Gorky Park (1983), Withnail & I (1987), King Ralph (1991), Guarding Tess (1994), Sleepy Hollow, La légende du cavalier sans tête (1999) and recently the 'Harry Potter' series as Uncle Vernon Dursley. Typically cast as comic relief in serious fare, he is well known in England for a number of comedy series including Pie in the Sky (1994).
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