Robbie Coltrane

Anthony Robert McMillan OBE (30 March 1950 – 14 October 2022), known professionally as Robbie Coltrane, was a Scottish actor and comedian. He gained worldwide recognition in the 2000s for playing Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film series. He was appointed an OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama. In 1990, Coltrane received the Evening Standard British Film Award – Peter Sellers Award for Comedy. In 2011, he was honoured for his "outstanding contribution" to film at the British Academy Scotland Awards.

Robbie Coltrane

Robbie Coltrane.jpg
Born
Anthony Robert McMillan

(1950-03-30)30 March 1950
Rutherglen, Scotland
Died14 October 2022(2022-10-14) (aged 72)
Larbert, Scotland
Alma materGlasgow School of Art
Occupation
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • writer
Years active1978–2022
Known forRole of Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter
Spouse
Rhona Gemmell
(m. 1999; div. 2003)
Children2

Coltrane started his career appearing alongside Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Emma Thompson in the sketch series Alfresco. In 1987, he starred in the BBC miniseries Tutti Frutti with Thompson, for which he received his first British Academy Television Award for Best Actor nomination. Coltrane then gained national prominence starring as criminal psychologist Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald in the ITV television series Cracker, a role which saw him receive the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in three consecutive years from 1994 to 1996. In 2006, Coltrane came eleventh in ITV's poll of TV's 50 Greatest Stars, voted by the public.[1] In 2016, he starred in the four-part Channel 4 series National Treasure alongside Julie Walters, a role for which he received a British Academy Television Award nomination.

Coltrane appeared in George Harrison's films Mona Lisa and Nuns on the Run and as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in the James Bond films GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. He also appeared in the films Henry V, Let It Ride, Danny, the Champion of the World, Ocean's Twelve, The Brothers Bloom, Great Expectations, and Effie Gray, and provided voice acting roles in the animated films The Tale of Despereaux and Brave.

Early life and educationEdit

Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan on 30 March 1950 in Rutherglen, Scotland, the son of Jean Ross Howie, a teacher and pianist, and Ian Baxter McMillan, a GP who also served as a forensic police surgeon.[2] He had an older sister, Annie, and a younger sister, Jane.[3][4][circular reporting?] Coltrane was the great-grandson of Scottish businessman Thomas W. Howie and the nephew of businessman Forbes Howie.[5]

He started his education at Belmont House School in Newton Mearns before moving to Glenalmond College, an independent school in Perthshire. Though he later described his experiences there as deeply unhappy, he played for the rugby First XV, was head of the school's debating society, and won prizes for his art.[6] He studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art.[7]

Coltrane later called for private schools to be banned and used to be known as "Red Robbie", rebelling against his conservative upbringing through involvement with Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Labour Party, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[8]

CareerEdit

 
Coltrane in costume in the 1980s

Coltrane moved into acting in his early twenties, adopting the stage name Coltrane (in tribute to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane)[9] and working in theatre and comedy. He appeared in the first stage production of John Byrne's The Slab Boys, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (1978).[10] His comedic abilities brought him roles in The Comic Strip Presents (1982–2012) series[11] (in 1993 he directed and co-wrote the episode "Jealousy" for series 5),[12] as well as the comedy sketch show Alfresco (1983–1984).[13] In 1984 he appeared in A Kick Up the Eighties (Series 2) and Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee, and is credited as a writer for both.[14][15]

Coltrane moved into roles in films such as Flash Gordon (1980), Death Watch (1980), Balham, Gateway to the South (1981), Scrubbers (1983), Krull (1983), The Supergrass (1985), Defence of the Realm (1985), Absolute Beginners (1986), Mona Lisa (1986), and appeared as "Annabelle" in The Fruit Machine (1988).[16]

On television, he appeared in The Young Ones, Tutti Frutti (1987), as Samuel Johnson in Blackadder the Third (1987)[17] (a role he later reprised in the more serious Boswell and Johnson's Tour of the Western Islands (1993)), LWT's The Robbie Coltrane Special (1989, which he also co-wrote),[18] and in other stand-up and sketch comedy shows. He played the part of Falstaff in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (1989). The same year he starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the television film adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book Danny, the Champion of the World.[19]

He co-starred with Eric Idle in Nuns on the Run (1990) and played the Pope in The Pope Must Die (1991).[16] He also played a would-be private detective obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in the TV film The Bogie Man (1992).[20] His roles continued in the 1990s with the TV series Cracker (1993–1996, returning in 2006 for a one-off special), in which he starred as forensic psychologist Dr. Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald.[21] The role won him three BAFTA awards.[6]

Roles in bigger films followed: the James Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), a supporting role in From Hell (2001), as well as half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films (2001–2011). J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, had Coltrane at the top of her list to play Hagrid and, when asked whom she would like to see in the role, responded "Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid" in one quick breath.[22][23]

Coltrane also presented a number of documentary programmes for the British ITV network based around his twin passions for travel and transportation. Coltrane in a Cadillac (1993) saw him cross North America from Los Angeles to New York City behind the wheel of a 1951 Cadillac Series 62 coupe convertible, a journey of 3,765 miles (6,059 km), which he completed in 32 days.[24][25]

In 1997, Coltrane appeared in a series of six programmes under the title Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles, in which he extolled the virtues of the steam engine, the diesel engine, the supercharger, the V8 engine, the two-stroke engine, and the jet engine. In these programmes he dismantled and rebuilt several engines. He also single-handedly removed the engine from a Trabant car in 23 minutes.[26]

In September 2006, Coltrane was voted No. 11 in ITV's TV's 50 Greatest Stars and sixth in a poll of 2000 adults across the UK to find the 'most famous Scot', behind the Loch Ness Monster, Robert Burns, Sean Connery, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace.[1]

In August 2007, Coltrane presented a series for ITV called B-Road Britain, in which he travelled from London to Glasgow, stopping in towns and villages along the way.[27]

Coltrane voiced characters in several animated films, including The Tale of Despereaux (2008) Pixar's Brave (2012), as well as the title roles of Gooby and The Gruffalo (both 2009).[28][29]

In 2016, Coltrane starred in National Treasure, a four-part drama in which he played a former comedian accused of historic sexual offences. He was nominated for Best Actor at the 2017 British Academy Television Awards,[30] and won in the category at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards.[31] Maureen Ryan of Variety wrote that "Coltrane does a masterful job of depicting every nuance of the character, whose wicked sense of humor masks a startling, and possibly intentional, lack of self-awareness".[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Coltrane met Rhona Gemmell, a pilates instructor, in the late 1980s.[33][34]

The couple had two children: son Spencer (b. 1992), and daughter Alice (b. 1998). Coltrane and Gemmell married in 1999, but separated in 2003, and later divorced but the two remained close.[33][35]

In February 2005, Coltrane appeared at a Scottish Labour event, in which he said on the question of Scottish independence "It's a very complicated issue. I would think, probably, eventually I would like to see independence but only an independent Labour Scotland", while adding "It would have to be terribly carefully considered. There are all sorts of advantages to being part of the United Kingdom and it would be foolish to throw it away immediately" and "I have no time for the nationalists – all they can do is split the vote for home rule and let the Tories in".[36]

Illness and deathEdit

Coltrane suffered from osteoarthritis in later life. He said he was in "constant pain all day" in 2016, and from 2019 on he employed a wheelchair.[37]

Coltrane died at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Scotland, on 14 October 2022, at the age of 72. He had been ill for two years prior to his death.[38][39][40] His death was registered by his ex-wife Rhona Gemmel,[33] the death certificate listed the causes as multiple organ failure complicated by sepsis, a lower respiratory tract infection, and heart block. He had also been diagnosed with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.[41]

Acting creditsEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1980 Flash Gordon Man at airfield [16]
Death Watch Limousine Driver [16]
1981 Subway Riders Crime Detective [16]
1982 Britannia Hospital Striking worker on picket line Cameo role[16]
1983 Ghost Dance George [16]
Krull Rhun [16]
1984 Chinese Boxes Harwood [16]
1985 National Lampoon's European Vacation Man in bathroom [16]
The Supergrass Det. Sgt. Troy [16]
Defence of the Realm Leo McAskey [16]
1986 Caravaggio Scipione [16]
Absolute Beginners Mario [42]
Mona Lisa Thomas [16]
1987 Eat the Rich Jeremy [16]
1988 The Fruit Machine Annabelle [16]
1989 Henry V Falstaff [16]
Bert Rigby, You're a Fool Sid Trample [16]
Let It Ride Ticket Seller [16]
Danny, the Champion of the World Victor Hazell [16]
Slipstream Montclaire [16]
1990 Midnight Breaks Hudge [16]
Nuns on the Run Charlie McManus
Sister Inviolata
[16]
Perfectly Normal Alonzo Turner [16]
1991 The Pope Must Die The Pope [16]
Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole Steffano Baccardi [16]
1992 Oh, What a Night Todd [16]
1993 Boswell & Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles Dr. Samuel Johnson [16]
The Adventures of Huck Finn Duke [16]
1995 GoldenEye Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky [16]
1997 Buddy Dr. Bill Lintz [16]
1998 Frogs for Snakes Al Santana [16]
Montana The Boss [16]
1999 The World Is Not Enough Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky [16]
Message in a Bottle Charlie Toschi [16]
2001 On the Nose Delaney [16]
From Hell Sergeant Peter Godley [16]
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Rubeus Hagrid [16]
2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [16]
2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [16]
Ocean's Twelve Ian Nicholas McNally / Matsui [16]
Van Helsing: The London Assignment Mr. Hyde Voice role[16]
Van Helsing
2005 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Rubeus Hagrid [16]
2006 Stormbreaker The Prime Minister [16]
Provoked Lord Edward Foster [16]
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Rubeus Hagrid [16]
2008 The Tale of Despereaux Gregory Voice role[16]
The Brothers Bloom The Curator [16]
2009 Gooby Gooby Voice role[28]
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Rubeus Hagrid [16]
2010 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
2012 Brave Lord Dingwall Voice role[16]
Great Expectations Mr. Jaggers [16]
2014 Effie Gray Doctor [16]

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1979 Play for Today Jimmie "Waterloo Sunset"[16]
1980 The Lost Tribe Border Post Guard "Keep Us Alive"[43]
1981 Metal Mickey Jason "Mickey the Demon Barber"[43]
Keep It in the Family Mr. Conway "A Matter of Principle"[43]
1982 Sin on Saturday Himself 2 episodes: "Lust", "Covetousness"[43]
The Young Ones Slobber Season 1, episode 2: "Oil"[44]
1982–2012 The Comic Strip Presents... Various roles Series 1–5; Special: "Five Go Mad in Dorset"[11]
Director & co-writer – Episode: "Jealousy" (1993)[12]
1983 Are You Being Served C.B. Voice Voice; Episode: "Calling All Customers"[45]
Alfresco Various roles 13 episodes[13]
1984 A Kick Up the Eighties Various roles Replaced Richard Stilgoe. Writer credits.[14]
Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee Various roles Writer credits.[15]
The Young Ones Dr Carlisle /
Captain Blood
Season 2, episode 1: "Bambi" & episode 4: "Time"[44]
1987 Blackadder the Third Samuel Johnson Episode 2: "Ink and Incapability"[17]
Tutti Frutti Danny McGlone 6 episodes[16]
1988 Friday Night Live Various roles
"Uncle Don Corleone"
Show 6[46]
Blackadder's Christmas Carol The Spirit of Christmas Christmas special[16]
1989 The Robbie Coltrane Special Himself LWT comedy special; co-writer[18]
1991 Screen One Psychiatrist Liam Kane Episode: "Alive and Kicking"[43]
1992 The Bogie Man Francis Forbes Clunie TV film[47]
1993 The Legend of Lochnagar The old man Television film, voice role[16]
Coltrane in a Cadillac Himself 4-part documentary[48]
1993–2006 Cracker Dr. Eddie 'Fitz' Fitzgerald 25 episodes[48]
1997 Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles Himself 6-part documentary[43]
1998 The Ebb-Tide Capt. Chisholm TV film[49]
1999 Alice in Wonderland Ned Tweedledum Television movie[16]
2003 The Planman Jack Lennox QC [50]
2004 Pride James Television film, voice[16]
Frasier Michael Moon Episode: "Goodnight, Seattle"[51]
2005 Still Game Davie Series 4, episode 3: "Dial-A-Bus"[43]
2006 Cracker: Nine Eleven Dr. Eddie 'Fitz' Fitzgerald Television film[52]
2007 Robbie Coltrane – B Road Britain Himself TV documentary[16]
2009 Murderland D.I. Douglas Hain 3-part TV drama[53]
The Gruffalo The Gruffalo Short film; voice role[16]
2011 Lead Balloon Donald Series 4, episode 4: "Off"[54]
Series 4, episode 5: "Blade"[55]
50 Greatest Harry Potter Moments Himself Narrator[56]
The Gruffalo's Child The Gruffalo Voice; Short[57]
2013 The Many Faces of Robbie Coltrane Himself TV documentary[58]
2016 National Treasure Paul Finchley 4-part TV drama[16]
2016–18 Robbie Coltrane Critical Evidence Host True crime, non-fiction[59]
2020 Urban Myths Orson Welles 1 episode[60]
2022 Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Himself HBO Max special[61]

TheatreEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Slab Boys Jack Hogg Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh[62]
1980 Threads Performer Hampstead Theatre, London[63]

Music videoEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Deeper Understanding Computer Junkie Kate Bush album Director's Cut[64]

Awards and honoursEdit

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref
1988 British Academy Television Award Best Actor Tutti Frutti Nominated [65]
1994 Cracker Won [66]
1995 Won [67]
1996 Won [68]
1993 Royal Television Society Award Performance Award – Male Won [69]
1995 Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actor Won [70]
2002 British Academy Film Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Nominated [71]
2001 Saturn Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated [72]
2017 British Academy Television Award Best Actor National Treasure Nominated [73]
2017 Royal Television Society Award Best Actor – Male Won [31]
2017 Monte-Carlo Television Festival Long Fiction Program. Outstanding Actor Won [74]
2017 Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actor Won [75]

Honorary awards

PublicationsEdit

  • Coltrane, Robbie; Stuart, Graham (May 1993). Coltrane in a Cadillac. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-1-85702-120-2.
  • Coltrane, Robbie (October 1997). Coltrane's Planes & Automobiles. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-81957-0.
  • Coltrane, Robbie (June 2008). Robbie Coltrane's B-Road Britain. Transworld. ISBN 978-0-593-05996-8.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit