The unforgettable Harry Potter actor has also played major roles in the James Bond films, Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and the British crime series Cracker.
Robbie Coltrane became world famous as a half-giant, the impressive but tender Hogwarts warden Hagrid, in the Harry Potter films. He played many other roles over his 40-year career but it was this character – less a father figure than a (very) big brother – that made him iconic, albeit hidden under a big bushy beard and a cascade of unruly hair. The goodness was palpable in Robbie Coltrane's eyes. He died on Friday at the age of 72. No details have been released about the cause of his death.
The news has caused a wave of grief among fans who knew him as the benevolent Hagrid, as well as among actors who played alongside him. "Robbie Coltrane was one of the funniest people I've ever met and used to make us laugh constantly when we were kids on set," wrote Daniel Radcliffe in a statement. "I have especially fond memories of him keeping his good humour during Prisoner of Azkaban, when we had to shelter from a torrential downpour for hours in Hagrid's cabin and he would tell stories and make jokes to keep our spirits up. I feel incredibly lucky to have met and worked with him and I am very sad that he has passed away. He was an incredible actor and a lovely man."
When the first film was released, author J.K. Rowling said that Robbie Coltrane was at the top of her personal list of actors to play Rubeus Hagrid. "Robbie is just perfect for Hagrid, because Hagrid is a very endearing character, quite likeable, quite comical," she said, "but you really have to have a certain toughness underneath. When news of Robbie Coltrane's death was shared, J.K. Rowling posted her own photo and memories on Twitter.
Anthony Robert McMillan, real name, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a doctor and a school teacher. He began acting professionally in the late 1970s, on stage and on television, before landing small roles in films such as Flash Gordon in 1980, Krull in 1983, European Vacation in 1985 and Mona Lisa in 1986. He could play both laughter and tragedy, but it was his comic acting skills that propelled his career.
In 1989, Kenneth Branagh cast him in the big screen adaptation of Henry V. He played one of William Shakespeare's most beloved characters, the lovable John Falstaff. Robbie Coltrane could also be delightfully understated, as in the 1990 film Nuns on the Run, in which he and Eric Idle played two gangsters hiding under the guise of nuns.
From James Bond to Harry Potter
Robbie Coltrane appeared in two James Bond films with Pierce Brosnan in the title role, GoldenEye in 1995 and The World Is Not Enough in 1999, in which he played Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, a KGB officer turned underworld figure (and reluctant ally of 007). He also starred in the 1990s ITV crime series Cracker as a cunning criminal psychologist whose personal life is a disaster.
But Rubeus Hagrid, the character he played in all eight Harry Potter films, dwarfs them all. Few other performers would have had the emotional intelligence, comic timing and impressive looks to bring a character as real (and large) as life to the screen. A clip from the HBO documentary Back to Hogwarts, which aired last January, went viral within minutes of his death being announced. It shows the actor feverishly pondering the immortality of his most famous character.
"The legacy of these films is that my children's generation will have their children watch them. So you could be watching [these films] in 50 years," he said. "I won't be around unfortunately, but Hagrid will."