Robbie Coltrane : larger than Life star with powerful legacy

He is the dominating presence that has brought characters to life with such vigour that they feel as if they are going to come through the screen.

But there is so much more subtlety to Robbie Coltrane's work than some of his most famous roles suggest.

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After being born in 1950 in Rutherglen to a GP and a teacher, Anthony Robert MacMillan (as he was then) attended private school and university before moving into acting.

Before some of his most serious and well-known rules, Coltrane entered the public consciousness with a few comedic cameos.

A comic turn as Mason Boyne, the proud Orange Order member in a short-lived BBC sketch show, was followed by a legendary one-off performance as word-smith Samuel Johnson in Blackadder.

Perhaps his best known TV role is as the troubled criminal psychologist Edward 'Fitz' Fitzgerald in the smash hit 'Cracker', which was critically acclaimed and boasted stars such as Robert Carlyle and Christopher Eccleston in supporting roles.

A household name by the early 90's, Coltrane already had a reputation as something of a rebel, once notably refusing to bow to Princess Anne at the Royal Variety Performance.

His powerful body of TV work led to two of his biggest supporting roles in cinema – a two-film stint as morally questionable 007 ally Valentin Zukovsky in Bond films Goldeneye and The World is not Enough, and as half-giant handyman Hagrid in the Harry Potter series of films.

Discussing the roles that some of Britain's biggest actors secured in the movies about the boy-wizard, author JK Rowling revealed that her two suggestions involved blurting out “Maggie Smith for Professor McGonagle and Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid” without a second thought.

The Harry Potter series give Coltrane regular work with eight acclaimed films spread over a ten year period – but he still found time for film roles as varied as Hyde in Van Helsing and the Prime Minister in young adult spy-action Stormbreaker.

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His TV work has also remained strong, a riotously funny turn in Still Game as a deranged bus driver gave a whole new generation a taste of his comedic acting credentials, and his recent role as a close-to-home public figure accused of historical abuse in 'National Treasure' was lauded.

Coltrane, while never one to embrace the celebrity lifestyle, has had a lasting impact on celebrities, and those he worked with.

Morag Fullarton, creative Director of A Play, A Pie and Pint, reflected on this legacy and acting power as she remembered working with Coltrane on Mistero Buffo.

'This was a huge challenge for any actor - a one man show by Dario Fo never before performed outside of Italy, playing multiple roles over two hours. Robbie was initially terrified, but took the challenge on and met it brilliantly,' she said.

'His distinctive combination of sharp intelligence, consummate acting skill and superb comic timing meant he was perfect for the role.

'If an actor can hold the stage, on his own for two hours and have the audience on their feet at the end, he can pretty much do anything.

'It was a bit of an 'acting Everest',I know after the run had finished he felt a great sense of achievement, that he could tackle anything...and rightly so.'

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