Drawing: Daniel Radcliffe in Equus

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When Richard Griffiths passed away earlier this year, Daniel Radcliffe lead the tributes:

“Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career. In August 2000, before official production had even began on Potter, we filmed a shot outside the Dursley’s, which was my first ever shot as Harry. I was nervous and he made me feel at ease. 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 humour made it a joy. Any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever by his presence. I am proud to say I knew him.”

Peter Shaffer’s Equus is a favourite of mine, both on screen and stage. A revival, directed by Thea Sharrock opened at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in February 2007 and subsequently transferred to the Broadhurst Theater on Broadway, running until February 2009. Daniel received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Play.

I did a quick ‘montage’ sketch of Daniel as Alan Strang, the boy who blinds a number of horse with a hoof pick and Richard’s Martin Dysart, a child psychiatrist trying to understand the cause of the boys actions, while wrestling with his own sense of purpose.

In the mayhem that surrounds Daniel I risked damage at this year’s Olivier Theatre Awards at the Royal Opera House to get it signed. Daniel’s signature is always his full name, so that combined with haste to sign as many as possible means the final ‘graph can vary in quality. However, he did take the time to dedicate it to me and seemed genuinely touched by the drawing.

I had also drawn another sketch of just Daniel with Richard behind him, so dropped it into the rehearsal room where Daniel was preparing for The Cripple of Inishmaan (currently in previews at the Noël Coward Theatre). I also enclosed a flyer for him to sign, which he did and sent it back. As you can see, the more ‘relaxed’ ‘graph is a model of legibility.

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Drawing: Alex Jennings and Richard Griffiths in The Habit of Art at The National Theatre

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RIP Richard Griffiths.

Although known as a ‘grumpy signer’ by the autograph collecting ‘fraternity’ – I guess it was one of the unique features of getting a Griffiths ‘graph with the gruffness, I personally always enjoyed meeting him and never had a refusal. He had one of the nicest signatures – full name, well scripted and always consistent.

He signed this sketch at the National during his season of The Habit of Art in January 2010. I was waiting at the stage door after an evening performance with a number of other hopefuls – a mixture of zombies and audience members. Richard eventually came out. I was standing on my own to the left of the exit. He stopped and started to roll a siggy a ciggy. After a few moments he turned to me and said. “I’m just having a cigarette.”
“Feel free,” I replied.

A little while later he said, “Have you got something for me?”
“I have.”
“What is it?”
“A sketch,” I said

More minutes passed. I think I was the ‘graph guinea pig that evening, testing Richard to see if he was ‘in the mood’.

“Can I see it?” he asked.
“Sure,” and I showed it to him.
“Very good. Do you want me to sign it?”
“To Mark,” I told him and handed him the Sharpie. He did the siggy, finished the ciggy, hopped in the waiting car and left. I wonder if he’ll sign for God?

Drawing: Danny Devito and Richard Griffiths in The Sunshine Boys at The Savoy Theatre

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To say that Richard Griffiths dislikes autograph collectors is an understatement. In fact, the week I went to ask him to sign my sketch at the Savoy Theatre he was quoted in a newspaper interview saying that autograph hunters were a pet hate and “the scourge of my life for 35 years.” Ironically his signature is one of the nicest from any celebrity – a calligraphic classic!
In contrast, Danny Devito is very relaxed and obliging… when you can find him. He was staying at the Savoy Apartments, adjacent to the theatre with the Hotel’s plush forecourt inbetween. During THE SUNSHINE BOYS season he used all available entrances and exits… and then some, with varying times. No pattern emerged. It was clear that this was going to be at least a 2 night operation.
The mission went as expected. I got Richard first try and it took four attempts to get Danny. Richard was straight forward – out the back stage door, into a waiting car, using the path of least resistance. He was about to get into his car when I asked him if he could please sign the sketch. He mumbled a few inaudible things, but duly obliged, then he looked at me and said ‘nice work’. Nice ‘graph I replied, then he sped off.
After waiting three nights till last train for Danny, I grugingly went again – bingo. He popped out at 10 through the theatre side door (we had a tip off). Signed for about 15 people, including the sketch. He didn’t say anything, but his PA (I think it was his son) said “that’s fantastic – it looks just like Danny!” “That’s the general idea,” I replied. Mission accomplished – a little sunshine boys into my life.