Robbie Coltrane, whose acting career spanned everything from Bond films to Cracker to Harry Potter, has died at the age of 72.
His agent confirmed the news on Friday.
Born in the prosperous Glasgow suburb of Rotherglen, Anthony Robert Macmillan was educated at Glenalmond College, an independent boarding school whose corporal punishment he described as “legal violence”, before attending the Glasgow School of Art. He had second thoughts about his ability as a painter, turning to live performance, working in radical theater companies (including a troupe from San Quentin State Prison) and doing stand-up, taking the pseudonym Coltrane as a tribute to famed jazz musician John Coltrane.
His first screen credit was Waterloo Sunset, the Richard Eyre-directed play for the day in 1979, in which he played nursing home fugitive Queenie Watts. After that, he had small appearances in movies and TV shows, including Flash Gordon, Are You Being Served?
Coltrane’s comedic skills began to take precedence, finding success in the early 1980s on television sketch shows such as Al Frisco and A Kick Up the Eighties. This placed him firmly in the alternative comedy school in the 1980s alongside Ben Elton, Emma Thompson, and Rik Mayall – an identity reinforced by his regular participation in Comic Strip Presents including major entries such as Five Go Mad in Dorset, The Beat Generation, and The Bullshitters.
However, Coltrane’s abilities as an actor were increasingly evident, and he had a hit in 1987 with Tutti Frutti, John Byrne’s Bafta-winning script-based television series about a Scottish rock and roll band. Coltrane found himself increasingly sought after for bigger roles in high-profile projects, from Derek German Caravaggio (in which he played the Cardinal) to Falstaff in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. But two religious comedies – Nuns on the Run and The Pope Must Die – propelled Coltrane to the status of a leading man, putting him on the map in the United States.
Coltrane’s high stature was underlined by his casting of criminal psychologist “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Jimmy McGovern’s television series Cracker, which first aired in 1993. A defiant non-comedy role, Fitzgerald was a groundbreaking innovation: brilliant on his job but a mess in his personal life. . Coltrane won the BAFTA Award for Best Television Actor in 1994, 1995 and 1996 for this role. Fitzgerald’s addictive lifestyle also reflects the actor: Coltrane admitted to being a heavy drinker in the ’80s, and remained famous for fighting, He once threatened to beat up Piers Morgan in a London restaurant. He then found himself in two Bond films, GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, as morally obscure KGB agent Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky.
Coltrane settled into a mid-term career of alternating roles in lavish Hollywood productions (A Letter in a Bottle, From Hell, Twelve Oceans) with minor television appearances (Alice in Wonderland, The Gruffalo). He also indulged his interest in vintage cars in the 1997 Coltrane Aircraft & Cars series. However, he found himself at the top of the pick list for Hogwarts School Principal Rubeus Hagrid, in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series – a role he was said to have only played after his children urged him to do so.
The first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 2001, and Coltrane gained a new audience of young fans, and helped revitalize his career, particularly on British television. In 2009, he played Detective D.I. Hain in David Pirie’s Murderland, and his performance as a television star accused of sexual assault on the 2016 show Channel 4 National Treasure He was greeted with a welcome.
Expressions of appreciation for the late actor began pouring in on social media. Stephen Fry, with whom he starred in the comedy series Alfresco, said: “I first met Robbie Coltrane exactly about 40 years ago. I was awed/horrified/loved at the same time.
“That depth, strength, and talent: funny enough to cause impotent hiccups and honking when we did our first TV show, ‘Al Fresco.’ Goodbye old man. You’ll be sorely missed.”
Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, praised her as a “remarkable talent”. “I will never know anyone like Robbie from a distance again,” Rowling wrote, accompanied by a photo of the two of them. “He was once a complete one, and I was fortunate to know him, work with him, and laugh my head off with him.”
Daniel Radcliffe, who has starred as the titular magician in the films, shared fond memories of their time together as he paid tribute to Coltrane. He said, “Ruby was one of the funniest people I’ve met and he used to keep us laughing constantly as kids in the group.
“I have particularly fond memories of him keeping our spirits up in Prisoner of Azkaban, when we were all hiding from the pouring rain for hours in Hagrid’s hut and he was telling stories and making jokes to keep morale up.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have met and work with him and very saddened by his passing. He was a wonderful actor and a wonderful man.”
first minister ScotlandNicola Sturgeon said Coltrane had “such range and depth as an actor, from great comedy to powerful drama”.
Actor Robert Lindsey said he was “shocked by the passing of my dear friend Robbie Coltrane. Share with us the Hollywood journey that will live on with me forever. Another great star lights the sky.”
Coltrane married sculptor Rhona Gemmell in 1999, But they separated in 2003. They had two children. The actor was awarded the OBE 2006 New Year’s Honor Roll for his services to drama and was awarded a Bafta Scotland Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film in 2011.
In his later years, he appeared less in film and television, but returned to give an interview to HBO’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts – where he talked about how his legacy as Hagrid will live on long after him.
Coltrane’s agent for 40 years, Belinda Wright, on Friday thanked the medical staff at the Royal Forth Valley Hospital in Larbert, near Falkirk, for their “care and diplomacy.”
In a statement, she added: “Ruby was a unique talent, participating in the Guinness Book of Records for winning three consecutive BAFTAs Best Actor Awards for his portrayal of Fitz in the Cracker TV series in Granada in 1994/1995/ and 1996 with Sir Michael Gambon. .
“He will probably be best remembered for decades to come as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films. A role that has brought joy to children and adults alike around the world, resulting in an influx of fan letters every week for over 20 years.
James Bond fans also wrote to pay tribute to his role in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. For me personally, I will remember him as an unwaveringly loyal client as well as a great actor, he was forensically savvy, brilliantly clever and after 40 years proud to call his agent. I will miss him.”