Beloved actor Robbie Coltrane, mostly known for his role as Hagrid in the Harry Potter franchise, has passed away, aged 72. The famous comedian and character actor had many credits to his name, but it wasn’t always a sure thing that he’d even become an actor on-screen at all.
Though he enjoyed a fantastic career, in his last, sadly, Robbie struggled with health problems.
Let’s take a closer look at the Scottish actor’s life.
As in any line of work, becoming skilled and successful is always something to strive towards. Unsurprisingly, it’s no different when it comes to actors. Of course, success can come in many different forms.
For some, success is featuring in some of the most extensive and expensive productions; others dream of working with specific directors. Some might want to play a particular role, and others still aim to simply earn as much money as possible.
For Robbie Coltrane, the things that mattered most were having fun and being inspired. Apparently, the Scottish actor didn’t have any plans on becoming an actor in the first place.
Robbie Coltrane – early life, school
Born Anthony McMillan in Rutherglen, near Glasgow, Scotland, on March 30, 1950, Coltrane had creativity flowing around him as a child. His mother, Jean Ross, was a professional pianist and teacher. His father, Ian, worked as a police surgeon, as well as a doctor.
Coltrane was raised in a middle-class home, but rebelled against it later in life. He enrolled at Glenalmond College – often described as the Scottish equivalent of the English private school Eton. There, though, Coltrane found that he didn’t enjoy the strict rules and discipline.
As per reports, he was once nearly expelled after he hung prefects’ gowns from the school clocktower.
“I didn’t accept the hierarchy, basically,” Coltrane told The Guardian in 2012. “‘You’ve crossed the quad and you’ve got your hands in your pockets. That’s not very good, is it?’ I used to think, do you know what? If we were in Sauchiehall Street [in central Glasgow] now, boy, it’d be a very different story. Because I’m a Glaswegian, you know?”
While Robbie didn’t quite enjoy the strict life at Glenalmond College, he captained the debating team and played for the school’s rugby team. More importantly, he had he found a big passion for art, for which he earned several prizes.
Why Robbie Coltrane changed his name
Eventually, Coltrane decided to leave and instead attended art school in Glasgow, majoring in drawing, painting, and film. He went on to study art at Edinburgh’s Moray House College of Education for a year, but was teased there for sounding very posh.
Interestingly, though prizes and awards certainly said a great deal about his artistic talent, he soon discovered that art wasn’t his big passion in life.
“I went to my diploma exhibition and thought: ‘This is nothing like what was going on in my head.’ It was a horrible feeling. The ideas were not there on the canvas at all,” Robbie recalled.
At that point in his life, Coltrane decided he wanted to become an actor. He had already starred in some small productions while attending school (he actually made his stage debut at age 12 at Glenalmond College, delivering lines from Henry V). In 1973, his documentary film, Young Mental Health, was voted film of the year by the Scottish Education Council.
His real name, Anthony McMillan, wasn’t one he enjoyed anymore – and so he changed his name to Coltrane. While growing up, he was fascinated by Marlon Brando and Orson Welles, but early on he found his mother’s job as a musician to be very inspiring.
So Robbie became his new name, in honor of the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.
One thing was for sure: Robbie had always been able to make people laugh.
Beginning of acting career
As a result, Coltrane decided to first embark on a comedy career, performing stand-up in clubs around Edinburgh. He took some other part-time jobs while appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, as well as performing with a number of small theater groups.
In 1980, Coltrane made his debut on television with a small role in BBC’s mini-series The Lost Tribe. That same year, he also starred in the film La Mort en Direct. Moreover, he had other parts, such as alongside British actress Emma Thompson in the sketch series Alfresco.
After getting several other comedy parts and theater work, in 1986, Coltrane got his big breakthrough when he starred in the film Mona Lisa. A year later, he earned his first British Academy Television Award nomination for his performance in the drama series Tutti Frutti.
As is the case for many actors, Coltrane’s career didn’t see him rise straight to the top. Two films he starred in, Nuns on the Run and The Pope Must Die, flopped, and Robbie decided to move away from the comedy genre.
At the same time, he was also fighting a battle within himself. Coltrane had put on plenty of weight and had problems with drinking, and his friends worried about him as a result. This was one of the reasons why his relationship with artist Robin Paine, who he had met while studying at art school, ended.
In 1986 he entered a program at a clinic in Mexico where he was treated for obesity.
Work on James Bond & Harry Potter
“Booze is my undoing. I can drink a gallon of beer and not feel the least bit drunk,” he once said.
Robbie was heading down the wrong path in life for a while, but managed to sort things out. In the 1990s, he showed the world his extraordinary acting talents when he starred in the crime drama Cracker. He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor three years in a row – and in 1995, the broader audience would meet him in a different role.
Coltrane appeared as Russian mafia boss Valentin Zukovsky in the James Bond films GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, which became two of his most notable credits. However, the most significant of all of his films was just around the corner, and it would forever change his life and legacy.
“Robbie is just perfect for Hagrid because Hagrid is a very loveable character, quite likeable, quite comic,” the author said. “But he had to have – you really do have to sense – a certain toughness underneath, and I think Robbie does that perfectly.”
Those were the words of author JK Rowling when Robbie was cast as the half-giant wizard Hagrid in Harry Potter. In 2000, the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a home run for Coltrane.
The character was lovable and appreciated among the fans, and most importantly for Coltrane, he once again got to incorporate some comedy into his work.
Robbie Coltrane – Hagrid in Harry Potter, net worth
Coltrane was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his performance in the first movie and reprised his role of Hagrid in all the Harry Potter films.
Not only did they cement his legacy, but Coltrane’s personal life was also in a good place. He had met his wife, Rhona Gemmel, who he married in 1999, and finally got a grip on his not-so-healthy habits. The couple raised two children – Spencer and Alice – in a remote farmhouse near Loch Lomond in Scotland. Moreover, he also enjoyed a financial boon through starring as Hagrid.
According to Net Worth Celebrities, Coltrane got around $200,000 for his role in the first Harry Potter movie. The third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, saw him earn about $900,000.
The final film in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), brought him a reported earning of $1.2 million.
At the time of his passing, Coltrane had a reported net worth of $4 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Working on the Harry Potter films was something completely different from what Coltrane had ever done before.
“I was always astonished at how fearless they were”
He revealed that it was very different for the adult actors, as they always were on their best behavior without any “fighting or swearing” on set because “everyone just thought, ‘Kids.’”
In fact, he once said that working on the Harry Potter films with actors such as Daniel Radcliffe (starring as Harry Potter) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) was like watching his own kids grow up.
“You’ve got to remember, when they first started they were about eight. I think the oldest of them was 11,” Coltrane said on HBO’s television special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.
“Now they’re big grown-ups with their own lives. [Rupert] Grint’s had a baby – Grint’s now a father! It’s just astonishing, the change. Watching them growing up was kind of like watching your own grow up, you know. Because you were protecting them.”
He added: “I was always astonished at how fearless they were. I remember walking into The Great Hall, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I thought, ‘Dear Lord! Woah, better get this one right.’ I do have enormous happy memories of this actually.”
In the middle of the Harry Potter success story, Robbie and his wife, Rhona, divorced. Unfortunately, this again set him on a destructive path of unhealthy habits, but he managed to continue working and eventually conquer it.
Robbie Coltrane – health issues
After the Harry Potter films, Coltrane’s career went on to include several more credits. Sadly, the last years of his life were stricken by health issues.
Robbie battled osteoarthritis, which left him in a wheelchair due to the pain in his knees.
Before his passing, Coltrane expressed that he was “constantly in pain” and pretty much disabled. Speaking with the Daily Star in 2016, the actor said that he had mobility issues because of osteoarthritis, and four years later, in an interview with the Express, Coltrane explained that he was “fighting pain 24 hours a day.”
Though experts and scientists don’t really know what triggers osteoarthritis, some risk factors include being overweight, diabetes, genetics, and older age, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Osteoarthritis can start with just mild symptoms like pain in the hands, knees, neck, or lower back. However, as the disease progresses, it can lead to limited mobility, swelling, and a change in the shape of bones.
Robbie passed away on October 14, at age 72. His friends and family expressed their love for the father and actor, and a host of his beloved co-stars in the Harry Potter films also paid tribute to him.
Robbie Coltrane dead at age 72
“Robbie was one of the funniest people I’ve met and used to keep us laughing constantly as kids on the set. I’ve especially fond memories of him keeping our spirits up on Prisoner of Azkaban when we were all hiding from the torrential rain for hours in Hagrid’s hut and he was telling stories and cracking jokes to keep morale up,” Daniel Radcliffe said in a statement.
“I feel incredibly lucky that I got to meet and work with him and very sad that he’s passed. He was an incredible actor and a lovely man.”
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling also shared her thoughts on Robbie Coltrane, saying that she’ll never know anyone like Robbie again.
“He was an incredible talent, a complete one off, and I was beyond fortunate to know him, work with him and laugh my head off with him. I send my love and deepest condolences to his family, above all his children.”
Robbie Coltrane’s cause of death has not yet been revealed. However, Deadline now report that he had been in poor health for the last two years. He passed away at a hospital near his home in Larbert, Scotland, and his family issued a statement thanking the staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital for the care they provided for Robbie.
Robbie Coltrane will always be remembered for his outstanding performances of Hagrid in Harry Potter.
I’ll not be here, but Hagrid will”
Since word of his death was confirmed, a sentimental moment from the HBO Harry Potter reunion special has gone viral. In it, Coltrane discussed how Hagrid and Harry Potter would live on past his own death – his words are now moving many fans to tears.
“The legacy of the movies is that my children’s generation will show them to their children. So you could be watching it in 50 years time, easy,” Coltrane said.
“I’ll not be here, sadly. But Hagrid will.”
Rest in peace, Robbie Coltrane.
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