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.
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.