Sad news last week, with the death of Richard Griffiths, British stage and screen actor, famous for Harry Potter, The History Boys and, of course, the absolute timeless classic, Withnail and I. Loved by most former Arts students (and that’s a lot of people since the film appeared in 1986), I must have seen it about twenty times, including at the cinema when it was first released. I know much of the dialogue by heart. It’s full of achingly memorable lines, penned by Bruce Robinson, many uttered by Uncle Monty, the lustful ageing homosexual played by Griffiths.
If you haven’t seen it, see it.
Griffiths was one of those people who, from early adulthood, look far older than they are, but thereafter never age. I knew someone like that at school. He was middle-aged from the age of ten, and in fact took to smoking a pipe before he was twenty. Even without the tweed and the horn-rimmed glasses, he looked forty.
I was surprised Griffiths was only sixty-five. I counted back to find out how old he must have been while shooting Withnail and I. Not even forty. He looked, even then, and perhaps aided by his physical bulk, as if he’d been marching through his fifties for a good few years.
Griffith’s masterful Uncle Monty has long been etched into my own personal history. Thanks to his unique talents Uncle Monty will long remain in my memories of early adulthood.
“I can never touch meat until it’s cooked. As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.”
Uncle Monty, in Withnail and I.
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