Famous Scots. Robbie Coltrane.


Anthony Robert McMillan OBE (30 March 1950 – 14 October 2022), known professionally as Robbie Coltrane, was a Scottish actor. He gained worldwide recognition in the 2000s for playing Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter film series. He was appointed an OBE in the 2006 New Year Honours by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama. In 1990, Coltrane received the Evening Standard British Film Award – Peter Sellers Award for Comedy. In 2011, he was honoured for his “outstanding contribution” to film at the British Academy Scotland Awards.

Coltrane started his career appearing alongside Hugh LaurieStephen Fry, and Emma Thompson in the sketch series Alfresco. In 1987, he starred in the BBC miniseries Tutti Frutti with Thompson, for which he received his first British Academy Television Award for Best Actor nomination. Coltrane then gained national prominence starring as criminal psychologist Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald in the ITV television series Cracker, a role which saw him receive the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in three consecutive years from 1994 to 1996. In 2006, Coltrane came eleventh in ITV’s poll of TV’s 50 Greatest Stars, voted by the public. In 2016, he starred in the four-part Channel 4 series National Treasure alongside Julie Walters, a role for which he received a British Academy Television Award nomination.

Coltrane appeared in the films Mona Lisa and Nuns on the Run and as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in the James Bond films GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough. He also appeared in the films Henry VLet It RideDanny, the Champion of the WorldOcean’s TwelveThe Brothers BloomGreat Expectations, and Effie Gray, and provided voice acting roles in the animated films The Tale of Despereaux and Brave.

Early life and education

Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan on 30 March 1950 in Rutherglen, Scotland, the son of Jean Ross Howie, a teacher and pianist, and Ian Baxter McMillan, a GP who also served as a forensic police surgeon. He had an older sister, Annie, and a younger sister, Jane. Coltrane was the great-grandson of Scottish businessman Thomas W. Howie and the nephew of businessman Forbes Howie.

He started his education at Belmont House School in Newton Mearns before moving to Glenalmond College, an independent school in Perthshire. Though he later described his experiences there as deeply unhappy, he played for the rugby First XV, was head of the school’s debating society, and won prizes for his art. He studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art.

Coltrane later called for private schools to be banned and used to be known as “Red Robbie”, rebelling against his conservative upbringing through involvement with Amnesty InternationalGreenpeace, the Labour Party, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.


Coltrane moved into acting in his early twenties, adopting the stage name Coltrane (in tribute to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane) and working in theatre and comedy. He appeared in the first stage production of John Byrne‘s The Slab Boys, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (1978). His comedic abilities brought him roles in The Comic Strip Presents (1982–2012) series (in 1993 he directed and co-wrote the episode “Jealousy” for series 5), as well as the comedy sketch show Alfresco (1983–1984). In 1984 he appeared in A Kick Up the Eighties (Series 2) and Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee, and is credited as a writer for both.

Coltrane in costume in the 1980s

Coltrane moved into roles in films such as Flash Gordon (1980), Death Watch (1980), Balham, Gateway to the South (1981), Scrubbers (1983), Krull (1983), The Supergrass (1985), Defence of the Realm (1985), Absolute Beginners (1986), Mona Lisa (1986), and appeared as “Annabelle” in The Fruit Machine (1988).

On television, he appeared in The Young OnesTutti Frutti (1987), as Samuel Johnson in Blackadder the Third (1987) (a role he later reprised in the more serious Boswell and Johnson’s Tour of the Western Islands (1993)), LWT’s The Robbie Coltrane Special (1989, which he also co-wrote), and in other stand-up and sketch comedy shows. He played the part of Falstaff in Kenneth Branagh‘s Henry V (1989). The same year he starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the television film adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s children’s book Danny, the Champion of the World.

He co-starred with Eric Idle in Nuns on the Run (1990) and played the Pope in The Pope Must Die (1991).He also played a would-be private detective obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in the TV film The Bogie Man (1992). His roles continued in the 1990s with the TV series Cracker (1993–1996, returning in 2006 for a one-off special), in which he starred as forensic psychologist Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald. The role won him three BAFTA awards.

Roles in bigger films followed: the James Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), a supporting role in From Hell (2001), as well as half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films (2001–2011). J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, had Coltrane at the top of her list to play Hagrid and, when asked whom she would like to see in the role, responded “Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid” in one quick breath.

Coltrane also presented a number of documentary programmes for the British ITV network based around his twin passions for travel and transportation. Coltrane in a Cadillac (1993) saw him cross North America from Los Angeles to New York City behind the wheel of a 1951 Cadillac Series 62 coupe convertible, a journey of 3,765 miles (6,059 km), which he completed in 32 days.

In 1997, Coltrane appeared in a series of six programmes under the title Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles, in which he extolled the virtues of the steam engine, the diesel engine, the supercharger, the V8 engine, the two-stroke engine, and the jet engine. In these programmes he dismantled and rebuilt several engines. He also single-handedly removed the engine from a Trabant car in 23 minutes.

In September 2006, Coltrane was voted No. 11 in ITV’s TV’s 50 Greatest Stars and sixth in a poll of 2000 adults across the UK to find the ‘most famous Scot’, behind the Loch Ness MonsterRobert BurnsSean ConneryRobert the Bruce, and William Wallace.

In August 2007, Coltrane presented a series for ITV called B-Road Britain, in which he travelled from London to Glasgow, stopping in towns and villages along the way.

Coltrane voiced characters in several animated films, including The Tale of Despereaux (2008) Pixar‘s Brave (2012), as well as the title roles of Gooby and The Gruffalo (both 2009).

In 2016, Coltrane starred in National Treasure, a four-part drama in which he played a former comedian accused of historic sexual offences. He was nominated for Best Actor at the 2017 British Academy Television Awards, and won in the category at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards. Maureen Ryan of Variety wrote that “Coltrane does a masterful job of depicting every nuance of the character, whose wicked sense of humor masks a startling, and possibly intentional, lack of self-awareness”.

Personal life

Coltrane met Rhona Gemmell, then a student at Glasgow School of Art, in the late 1980s. The couple had two children; son Spencer (b. 1992), and daughter Alice (b. 1998). Coltrane and Gemmell married in 1999, but separated in 2003 and later divorced, however the two remained close.

In February 2005, Coltrane appeared at a Scottish Labour event, in which he said on the question of Scottish independence “It’s a very complicated issue. I would think, probably, eventually I would like to see independence but only an independent Labour Scotland”, while adding “It would have to be terribly carefully considered. There are all sorts of advantages to being part of the United Kingdom and it would be foolish to throw it away immediately” and “I have no time for the nationalists – all they can do is split the vote for home rule and let the Tories in”.

Illness and death

Coltrane suffered from osteoarthritis in later life. He said he was in “constant pain all day” in 2016, and, from 2019 onwards, he used a wheelchair.

Coltrane died at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Scotland, on 14 October 2022, at the age of 72. He had been ill for two years prior to his death.His death was registered by his ex-wife Rhona Gemmell; the death certificate listed the causes as multiple organ failure complicated by sepsis, a lower respiratory tract infection, and heart block. He had also been diagnosed with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Facebook welcome.
Thank you for Sharing me.
%d bloggers like this: