Robbie Coltrane, who was in the movies Cracker and Harry Potter, has died at age 72.
Robbie Coltrane, an actor whose work ranged from Bond movies to “Cracker” to “Harry Potter,” has died at the age of 72.
Friday, his agent said that it was true.
Anthony Robert McMillan was born in the wealthy Glaswegian suburb of Rutherglen. Before going to the Glasgow School of Art, he went to Glenalmond College, an independent boarding school whose physical punishment he called “legalized violence.” He started to doubt his skill as a painter and switched to live performance, acting in radical theater companies (including a group from San Quentin State prison) and doing stand-up comedy under the name Coltrane as a tribute to the famous jazz musician John Coltrane.
Waterloo Sunset, a 1979 Play for Today directed by Richard Eyre, was his first movie role. He played the care-home escapee opposite Queenie Watts. After that, he had small roles in movies and TV shows like Flash Gordon, Are You Being Served?, Krull, and Britannia Hospital. His big size and unique look made him stand out from the crowd.
In the early 1980s, Coltrane started to be known for his comedy skills. He did well on TV sketch shows like Alfresco and A Kick Up the Eighties. These things put him firmly in the alternative comedy school of the 1980s, along with Ben Elton, Emma Thompson, and Rik Mayall. His regular appearances in Comic Strip Presents films, such as Five Go Mad in Dorset, The Beat Generation, and The Bullshitters, helped to cement this identity.
But Coltrane’s acting skills became more and more obvious, and in 1987, he had a lot of success with Tutti Frutti, a TV show about a failed Scottish rock-and-roll band that was written by John Byrne and won a Bafta. Coltrane was asked to play bigger parts in bigger projects like Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (in which he played a cardinal) and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (in which he played Falstaff). But the two religious-themed comedies Nuns on the Run and The Pope Must Die put Coltrane on the map in the US and made him a leading man.
The fact that he was cast as the criminal psychologist “Fitz” Fitzgerald in Jimmy McGovern’s TV show Cracker, which first aired in 1993, added to Coltrane’s newfound fame. Fitzgerald was a role that was decidedly not funny. He was brilliant at his job, but his personal life was a mess. Coltrane won the Bafta for best TV actor for the role in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Fitzgerald’s life of addiction was similar to that of the actor. Coltrane admitted to being a heavy drinker in the 1980s, and he was known for being a fighter. He once threatened to beat up Piers Morgan in a restaurant in London. Then, he was cast as the morally ambiguous KGB agent Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in two James Bond movies, GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough.
Coltrane’s mid-career consisted of roles in high-end Hollywood movies like “Message in a Bottle,” “From Hell,” and “Ocean’s Twelve,” and easygoing TV roles (Alice in Wonderland, The Gruffalo). In the 1997 series Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles, he also talked about the old cars he liked. But he was at the top of the list for the role of Rubeus Hagrid, the school caretaker at Hogwarts, in the movies based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. It is said that he only took the part because his children asked him to.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the series, came out in 2001. It gave Coltrane a new audience of younger fans and gave his career a boost, especially on British TV. In 2009, he played DI Hain, an investigating detective, in David Pirie’s Murderland. In 2016, he played a TV star who was accused of sexual abuse in the Channel 4 show National Treasure.
On social media, people started to say nice things about the late actor. Stephen Fry, who starred with him in the comedy series Alfresco, said, “I met Robbie Coltrane for the first time almost 40 years ago. I was amazed, scared, and in love all at the same time. So much depth, power, and talent, and so funny that it made us snort and honk as we made our first TV show, “Alfresco.” Farewell, old fellow. We’ll miss you so very much.”
The author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, said that the person was “an incredible talent.” Rowling wrote, along with a picture of her and Robbie, that she would never meet anyone else who was even close to Robbie. “He was totally unique, and I was so lucky to know him, work with him, and have a good time with him.”
Daniel Radcliffe, who played the main wizard in the movies, paid tribute to Coltrane by talking about the good times they had working together. He said, “Robbie was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When we were kids on the set, he made us laugh all the time.” I’ll always remember how he kept us laughing and happy during Prisoner of Azkaban, when we were all hiding from the rain for hours in Hagrid’s hut and he kept us laughing by telling stories and making jokes.
“I feel so lucky to have met and worked with him, and I’m very sad that he’s gone. He was a great actor and a nice person.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, said that Coltrane had “such depth and range as an actor, from brilliant comedy to hard-edged drama.”
Robert Lindsay, an actor, said that he was “stunned” by the death of his close friend Robbie Coltrane. We went to Hollywood together, and it was a trip I’ll never forget. Another bright star to shine in the sky.”
Coltrane got married to the sculptor Rhona Gemmell in 1999, but in 2003 they broke up. The couple had two kids. In 2006, the actor was given an OBE for his work in theater, and in 2011, he was given the Bafta Scotland Award for his outstanding contribution to film.
In his later years, he was in movies and TV shows less often, but he came back to be interviewed for HBO’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. In the interview, he talked about how his role as Hagrid would live on long after he was gone.
Belinda Wright, who has been Coltrane’s agent for 40 years, thanked the doctors and nurses at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, near Falkirk, for their “care and diplomacy” on Friday.
In a statement, she said, “Robbie was a one-of-a-kind talent. He and Sir Michael Gambon were both in the Guinness Book of Records for winning three consecutive Best Actor Baftas for their roles as Fitz in the Granada TV series Cracker in 1994, 1995, and 1996.”
Most likely, Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies will be the thing people will remember him for the most. A role that made kids and adults happy all over the world and got letters from fans every week for more than 20 years. Fans of James Bond also write to praise his performances in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. I will remember him as a loyal client who was also a great actor. He was very smart and funny, and after 40 years of being proud to be his agent, I will miss him.