Born in Rutherglen, Glasgow, Scotland, Coltrane was raised the middle of three children by his father, Ian, a general practitioner and police surgeon who determined cause of death on crime scenes, and his mother, Jean, a teacher. During his youth, he used comedy to deflect the taunts of his schoolmates, as well as dispel any potential disciplinary action from authority figures - parents included - when he got into trouble. Coltrane's penchant for unruly behavior was evident in his youth, which led his parents to send him off to the strict Glenalmond School in Perthshire. Though he got on well enough with his mates, Coltrane had a miserable time, which he sought to alleviate by pulling numerous pranks - like stealing the prefects' gowns and hanging them from the clock tower - that almost led to expulsion. He did, however, have several notable achievements, including becoming head of the debate society, winning an award for his artwork and playing rugby. Constant beatings at the hands of the school's prefects only reinforced Coltrane's rebellious, anti-establishment attitude.After seeing the bohemian lifestyle of older sister, Annie, who was studying graphic art in Edinburgh, Coltrane indulged his passionate interests and decided to become an artist. He attended the Glasgow School of Art, where he studied painting, drawing and film. But he soon realized that his acceptable talents were no match for his gargantuan artistic ambitions, which led to attending the Moray House School of Education with the idea of becoming an art teacher. But after a year at the school, as well as losing most of his art in a fire, Coltrane ditched pursuing an art career; instead deciding to become an actor - a notion he had entertained since adolescence after seeing Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" (1953) and appearing in a school production of "Henry V." With renewed purpose, the actor - who changed his surname from McMillan to Coltrane in tribute to jazz musician John Coltrane - began honing his craft on stage, including appearances in John Byrne's "The Slab Boys" and "Cuttin' the Rug." At the same time, Coltrane put his comedic gifts to use by developing a stand-up act at local nightclubs.In 1973, Coltrane made a 50-minute documentary titled "Young Mental Health" that was voted film of the year by the Scottish Educational Council, earning him substantial notice. Meanwhile, he suffered a sudden and tragic personal loss when his younger sister, Jane, who was manic depressive and indulgent with drugs and alcohol, swallowed a handful of pills after a hard night of drinking and died of an overdose. Coltrane was staggered by the loss and remained tight-lipped about her death from that moment on. He did shoulder on with acting while, at the same time, imbibing in drugs and alcohol himself. He made his acting debut in "Deathwatch" (1980), director Bernard Tavernier's sci-fi thriller about a man from the future (Harvey Keitel) who journeys to the past to probe the subconscious of a dying woman (Romy Schneider). Coltrane put his comedic skills to good use on the small screen, landing roles on British-made shows like the sketch comedy "A Kick Up the Eighties" (BBC, 1981-84), which also starred Tracey Ullman, "The Comic Strip Presents" (BBC, 1982-2005) and the short-lived "Alfresco" (ITV, 1983-84), which also featured Emma Thompson.On the big screen, Coltrane had his first major role as a police detective tracking a killer in "Subway Riders" (1981), directed by Amos Poe. He next appeared in the strange "Ghost Dance" (1983), an overly talky avant-garde film that used a fictional narrative to explore the belief in ghosts and its effect on psychology, philosophy and cinema. Coltrane returned to more straightforward features with small parts in "Krull" (1983) and "Loose Connections" (1983), which he followed with a dramatic turn in the twisting psychological "Chinese Boxes" (1984). He had smaller roles opposite Chevy Chase in "National Lampoon's European Vacation" (1985) and Al Pacino in the forgettable historical epic, "Revolution" (1985). Coltrane earned notice for his turn as Bob Hoskins' mechanic pal in "Mona Lisa" (1986) and as a corrupt cardinal in the Derek Jarman-directed "Caravaggio" (1986), both of which displayed his dramatic gifts. He played famed British author Dr. Samuel Johnson in "Blackadder the Third: Ink and Incapability" (BBC, 1987), a historical sitcom starring Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson and Hugh Laurie, which he followed with a turn as the Spirit of Christmas in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol" (BBC, 1988). By this point in his career, Coltrane was a popular figure in the United Kingdom who easily oscillated between comedy and drama. After appearing in Carl Reiner's raunchy musical comedy, "Bert Rigby, You're a Fool" (1989), he was the obvious choice for Kenneth Branagh to cast as the rotund, boisterous rogue Sir John Falstaff in the acclaimed film adaptation of "Henry V" (1989). As the next decade dawned, Coltrane turned in a finely honed comedic performance in "Nuns on the Run" (1990), playing a petty criminal who poses as a sister of the cloth with his partner-in-crime (Eric Idle) in order to hide out in a convent with stolen loot from a violent gang. In "The Pope Must Die" (1991), Coltrane portrayed the new pontiff who becomes a target for murder. After an unnoticed supporting role in the forgettable coming-of-age drama "Oh, What a Night" (1992), he earned critical acclaim for playing Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald, a foul-mouthed, alcoholic, chain-smoking, womanizing criminal psychologist who, despite it all, is brilliant at his job in "Cracker." For his work, Coltrane won three consecutive Best Television Actor BAFTAs.Thanks to the awards he amassed for the series, Coltrane began landing bigger and better film and television gigs, while also finding the time to pursue more personal projects. He was featured as the Duke in "The Adventures of Huck Finn" (1993) and was the subject of "Coltrane in a Cadillac" (1993), a documentation of his cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to New York. After a small role as a Russian gangster in "Goldeneye" (1995), he was the husband of a wealthy, eccentric woman (Rene Russo) who raises a zoo of animals in her New York apartment, including a rather large and difficult gorilla, in "Buddy" (1997). Coltrane next put his love of automobiles and fixing engines to use in "Coltrane's Planes and Automobiles" (1997), in which he examined the history of mechanized transportation, while demonstrating its effectiveness through rebuilding several engines. In "Montana" (1998), he was the boss of a hit woman (Kyra Sedgwick) who is the target of the organization she works for. Following a turn as an American newspaper editor in "Message in a Bottle" (1999), he was a Russian Mafia boss who lends a hand to James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999). As the new millennium dawned, Coltrane was about to become a bigger star than he had ever imagined. In "From Hell" (2001), he was a Scotland Yard detective who works with an unorthodox partner (Johnny Depp) in trying to find London's most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Coltrane was again perfectly cast as Rubeus Hagrid in the long-awaited and much-anticipated adaptation of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" (2001). As the 8'6" half-human, half-giant who helps Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) adjust to his new life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Coltrane portrayed Hagrid as slightly bumbling, earnest and fiercely loyal to his protégé. Over the course of the next decade, he reprised Hagrid in all the ensuing sequels - "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004), "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005) and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007). Throughout his run in the exceedingly popular and financially successful "Harry Potter" series, Coltrane continued to appear in a variety of film and television projects. He provided the threatening voice of the monstrous, CGI-created Mr. Hyde in "Van Helsing" (2004), which he reprised in the animated "Van Helsing: The London Assignment" (2004). Following a small turn in "Ocean's Twelve" (2004), he was the Prime Minister of England in the adaptation of Anthony Horowitz's "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" (2006). Coltrane reprised Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald for "Cracker: A New Terror" (BBC, 2006), which saw the hard-living investigator tracking down a possible murder suspect fueled by his rage at America's handling of terrorism. Returning to voiceover work, he joined an all-star cast that included Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Sigourney Weaver and Tracey Ullman for "The Tales of Despereaux" (2008). Meanwhile, Coltrane reprised Hagrid yet again for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009), the sixth installment of the film series which promised to be darker than its predecessors. Robbie Coltrane died on October 14, 2022 in Larbert, Scotland at the age of 72.
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