Robbie Coltrane, OBE (born Anthony Robert McMillan, March 30, 1950) is a Scottish actor, comedian and author.
He is known both for his role as Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald in the British TV series Cracker during the 1990s and as Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films.
Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, the son of Jean McMillan Ross (née Howie), a teacher and pianist, and Ian Baxter McMillan, a general practitioner who also served as a forensic police surgeon. He has an older sister, Annie, and a late younger sister, Jane. Coltrane is the great-grandson of Scottish businessman Thomas W. Howie. He was educated at the prestigious Glenalmond College in Perthshire, from which he was nearly expelled after hanging the prefects’ gowns from the school clocktower. 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. From Glenalmond, Coltrane went on to Glasgow School of Art, where he was ridiculed for “having an accent like Prince Charles” (which he quickly disposed of, though not before gaining the nickname “Lord Fauntleroy”) and then the Moray House College Of Education in Edinburgh. Coltrane later called for public 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.
Coltrane moved into acting in his early twenties, taking the stage name Coltrane (in tribute to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane) and working in theatre and stand-up comedy. Appearing in the 1981 BBCtelevision comedy series A Kick Up the Eighties, his comic skills also brought him roles in the The Comic Strip Presents (1982) series and the comedy sketch shows Alfresco (1983–1984) and Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee (1984).
Coltrane soon moved into films, obtaining roles in a number of movies such as Flash Gordon (1980), Death Watch (1980), Scrubbers (1983), Krull(1983), The Supergrass (1985), Absolute Beginners (1986), Mona Lisa (1986) and appeared as “Annabelle” in The Fruit Machine (1988). On television, he also appeared in The Young Ones, Tutti Frutti (1987), as Samuel Johnson in Blackadder (1987) (a role he later reprised in the more serious Boswell and Johnson’s Tour of the Western Islands (1993)), and in a number of stand-up and sketch comedy shows. He played the part ofFalstaff in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989) He co-starred with Eric Idle in Nuns on the Run (1990), and played the Pope in The Pope Must Die(1991). He also played a would-be private detective obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in the TV play The Bogie Man.
His roles went from strength to strength 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) and a BAFTA award as the stepping stone to parts in bigger films, such as theJames Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), a major 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 series, had Coltrane at the top of her list to play Hagrid and when asked who she would like to see in the role responded “Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid” in one quick breath.
Coltrane has also presented a number of popular 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 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.
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 a number of engineering achievements, namely the steam engine, the diesel engine, the supercharger, the V8 engine, the two-stroke engine, and the jet engine. In these programmes he showed he was not afraid to get his hands dirty, getting involved with dismantling and rebuilding several engines. He also single-handledly removed the engine from a Trabant car in 23 minutes.
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.
Coltrane was voted No. 10 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.