“As well as being a wonderful actor, he was forensically intelligent and brilliantly witty, and after 40 years of being proud to be called his agent, I shall miss him,” Wright added of Coltrane in a statement.
Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan on March 30, 1950, in Glasgow, Scotland, as the son of a doctor and a teacher. After graduating from Glasgow Art School, he continued his studies in art at Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh.
He began his comedy and theatre career and commanded the screen in two James Bond films during an illustrious career on both sides of the Atlantic. But as his attempts to become an artist failed to pan out, Coltrane took up stand-up comedy in Edinburgh clubs. And he changed his last name in honour of the jazz legend John Coltrane as he turned to pursue acting in London.
Coltrane’s early TV credits include Flash Gordon, Blackadder, and Keep It in the Family. His other comedy credits included series like A Kick Up the Eighties, The Comic Strip, and Alfresco as he became a mainstay on British TV screens. Coltrane’s breakout role was playing Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, an anti-social criminal psychologist with a gift for solving crimes, in Jimmy McGovern’s Cracker series, which ran over 25 episodes between 1993 and 2006.
Coltrane won three consecutive BAFTA best television actor awards for that role, sharing a record for most wins in a row. That performance led Coltrane to roles in two James Bond films, playing Valentin Zukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. But most know Coltrane from his other big supporting role: Rubeus Hagrid, the giant groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the Harry Potter films, starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001.
In his later years, he appeared less frequently in film and television but returned to be interviewed for HBO’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts – where he spoke of how his legacy as Hagrid would live long beyond him. Coltrane’s agent of 40 years Belinda Wright on Friday thanked the medical staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, near Falkirk for their “care and diplomacy”
Tributes began pouring in for the late actor on social media. Stephen Fry, with whom he starred in the comedy series Alfresco, said: “I first met Robbie Coltrane almost exactly 40 years ago. I was awe/terror/love-struck all at the same time.
Such depth, power & talent: funny enough to cause helpless hiccups & honking as we made our first TV show, ‘Alfresco’. Farewell, old fellow. You’ll be so dreadfully missed.”
JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, paid tribute to “an incredible talent”. “I’ll never know anyone remotely like Robbie again,” Rowling wrote, accompanied by a picture of the pair. “He was a complete one-off, and I was beyond fortunate to know him, work with him and laugh my head off with him.”
Daniel Radcliffe, who starred as the titular wizard in the films, shared fond memories from their time on set together as he paid tribute to Coltrane. He said: “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. 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.”
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said Coltrane had “such range and depth as an actor, from brilliant comedy to hard-edged drama”.
The actor Robert Lindsay said he was “in shock at the death of my dear pal Robbie Coltrane. We shared a Hollywood journey that will live with me forever. Another great star to light the heavens.”
Coltrane is survived by a sister, Annie Rae, his children, Spencer and Alice, and their mother, Rhona Gemmell.