The sad news of actor Richard Griffiths’ passing at the age of 65 has been unsurprisingly marked by headlines which routinely mention the Harry Potter movies. Certainly Griffiths made an impressive contribution to that franchise as he did a remarkable number of other projects, including the U.K. TV show Pie in the Sky and the acclaimed Broadway hit The History Boys, which earned him a Tony.
But for cult movie fans – and particularly British cult movie fans such as myself – Griffiths will be most fondly remembered for playing the eccentric “Uncle Monty” in the fabulous 1987 black comedy Withnail and I, booze- and drugs-fueled tale of two unemployed actors (Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) who “go on holiday by mistake” to a Monty-owned country cottage.
To be honest, Uncle Monty – a gay, vegetable-adoring ex-thespian who spends a goodly portion of the film lusting after McGann’s straight “I” – is not the most politically correct part ever written. But Griffiths gifts the role a marvelous warmth which ultimately makes Monty as lovable and melancholic as he is funny.
You really need to see all of Withnail to appreciate Griffiths’ performance. But the (at times very foul-mouthed) clips below give some idea as to why Uncle Monty is such an unforgettable creation.