The renowned Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane passed away on Friday in Larbert, Scotland. He was best known for his roles as the lovable half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” movies and as the lead in the critically acclaimed British crime drama “Cracker.” He was 72.
Belinda Wright, his British agent, announced his passing away in a hospital. Mr. Coltrane had been “unwell for some time,” according to Ms. Wright, who noted that his family had not given a reason for his passing.
Throughout a four-decade career in cinema and television, Mr. Coltrane switched between comedic and dramatic roles. He played an antihero detective on “Cracker” (1993–1996), a K.G.B. agent who became James Bond’s ally in two movies, and a mobster who dresses as a nun after betraying his fellow crooks in the Monty Python comedy “Nuns on the Run” (1990).
However, those performances didn’t do much to prepare Mr. Coltrane for the role of Hagrid, a beloved character from the “Harry Potter” books, who would have to live up to the extremely high expectations of millions of young readers.
The groundskeeper of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 8-foot-6 half-giant, half-giant Hagrid, was expertly depicted by Mr. Coltrane. He appeared in all eight “Harry Potter” movies, bringing warmth to the franchise even as he towered above the teenage witches and wizards who served as its protagonists and were engaged in a conflict with evil.
With the release of the first movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in November 2001, J.K. Rowling’s book series already had a huge global fan following. The movie went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.
The part, according to Ms. Wright, Mr. Coltrane’s agent of 40 years, was the cause of the “flood of fan letters every week for over 20 years,” she said.
Mr. Coltrane, who fiercely guarded his privacy, gave few interviews and had a reputation for being confrontational with reporters. But when he was greeted by a horde of young “Harry Potter” enthusiasts, he claimed he had to put aside his stern demeanor.
In 2012, he explained to The Guardian, “Kids come up to you and they go, ‘Would you like to autograph my book?’ with those big doe-eyes.” And it’s a weighty obligation.
Anthony Robert McMillan, the father of Mr. Coltrane, was born on March 30, 1950, in Rutherglen, a town outside of Glasgow, Scotland. His mother, Jean Ross Howie, was a teacher, and his father, Ian Baxter McMillan, was a doctor.
He was raised in the suburbs of Glasgow and attended the Glasgow School of Art, where he studied painting and sketching but had trouble putting his thoughts on canvas.
In 2014, he told the Scottish newspaper The Herald, “I wanted to paint like the painters who really impacted me, who made me want to weep about mankind.” “Titian. Rembrandt. But when I saw my diploma exhibition, I was greatly disappointed to see that nothing resembled what I had imagined.
The Herald said that as his chances of becoming a painter diminished, a theatre teacher who saw him in a production of Harold Pinter’s one-act play “The Dumb Waiter” told him that he had acting talent.
He chose his stage name as an homage to the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, and when he relocated to London, he discovered more stability. There, he performed stand-up comedy and started acting, landing stage roles and little parts on television and in movies.
On the popular television show “Cracker,” he won praise from critics for his portrayal of Fitz, a brilliant but damaged criminal psychologist who chain-smoked and struggled with alcoholism, much like John Coltrane himself. He won the BAFTA for best TV actor in 1994, 1995, and 1996 because of his performance.
John J. O’Connor stated in The New York Times that Mr. Coltrane, who has long been recognized primarily as a comic performer in movies, “has accomplished the astonishing task of rendering the practically unbearable Fitz curiously charming.”
In the James Bond movies “GoldenEye” (1995) and “The World Is Not Enough” (1999), Mr. Coltrane played Valentin Zukovsky, a former K.G.B. agent turned Russian mafia boss and gained wider recognition, particularly in the United States.
However, nothing could compare to the worldwide renown he attained after being cast as Rubeus Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” films. The adored persona was brought to life by Mr. Coltrane, who had a shaggy beard and a snarling voice.
The young actors who were raised on the “Harry Potter” movie set cherished their memories of Mr. Coltrane as someone they could rely on to cheer them up with a joke or encouraging words.
When he was younger, Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, recalled how Mr. Coltrane “used to keep us giggling continuously.”
In a statement, Mr. Radcliffe added, “I’ve especially vivid recollections of him keeping our spirits up on ‘Prisoner of Azkaban,’ when we were all hiding from the pouring rain for hours in Hagrid’s hut and he was telling stories and cracking jokes to keep morale up.
When he was 14 years old and anxious on his first day on the set of the television show, James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley, posted on Twitter that Mr. Coltrane came over and said, “Enjoy it, you’ll be amazing.”
Spencer and Alice Coltrane, as well as Annie Rae Coltrane, are Mr. Coltrane’s offspring and siblings.
In the “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” HBO Max retrospective, which debuted on January 1, Mr. Coltrane thought back on the part that made him famous among a new generation of fans.
The legacy of the films, according to him, is that my children’s generation will pass them down to their offspring. “So it’s quite possible that you will be viewing it in 50 years. Unfortunately, Hagrid will be here without me.