Robbie Coltrane, who played the endearing half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” series, died on Friday, his agency WME confirmed to Variety. He was 72.
Coltrane appeared in every “Harry Potter” film, from “Sorcerer’s Stone” in 2001 to “Death Hallows-Part 2” in 2011, and was widely praised for bringing J.K. Rowling’s character to life. He was one of the first characters to appear on screen, and he famously recited the line, “You are a wizard, Harry,” to a young Daniel Radcliffe as he began his journey into the wizarding world. Hagrid was big and strong, but he was a softie at heart. He liked dangerous animals and took care of some of the most dangerous and well-known ones in the “Harry Potter” world. Radcliffe paid tribute to his time on the “Potter” set with John Coltrane. “I have particularly fond memories of him lifting our spirits on ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’,”” Radcliffe said. “When we were all hiding from the rain in Hagrid’s hut for hours, he was telling stories and cracking jokes to keep morale up.”
The Scottish actor, comedian, and writer also played the Russian mafia figure Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in two James Bond films, 1995’s “GoldenEye” and 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough.”
In 1983, he made his first major appearance on the British sketch comedy series “Alfresco.” He appeared alongside future greats Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Stephen Fry. A few years later, he reunited with Thompson on the 1987 BBC Scotland drama “Tutti Frutti,” for which he received his first British Academy Television Awards nomination for best actor. He won three British Academy Television awards for his performance as criminal psychologist Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald in the ITV crime drama “Cracker” from 1993 to 1995. Coltrane went on to play a retired comedian accused of sexual assault in the acclaimed Channel 4 drama “National Treasure” after hanging up Hagrid’s moleskin coat. He received a number of best actor awards from British organizations for the role.
Belinda Wright, his long-time agent, reminisced about their collaboration. “He will probably be best remembered for decades to come as Hagrid in the ‘Harry Potter’ films, a role that brought joy to children and adults alike all over the world, prompting a stream of fan letters every week for over 20 years,” Wright told Variety in an email. “I will remember him as a steadfastly loyal client for the rest of my life.” He was not only a fantastic actor, but he was also forensically intelligent and brilliantly witty, and I will miss him after 40 years of being proud to be his Agent.”
Coltrane’s sister Annie Rae, his children Spencer and Alice, and their mother Rhona Gemmell survive him. The family thanked the medical staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert for their compassion and diplomacy.
The actor’s final appearance with his Harry Potter family was in the 20th anniversary special “Return to Hogwarts,” which aired on HBO Max in January 2022. His reflections on the series’ power also served as an emotional farewell to fans.
“Robbie was ailing when we were filming, aware of his mortality and fiercely determined to have that final, full circle experience with his beloved cast,” said Casey Patterson, director and executive producer of the much-watched reunion. We could feel him taking in the great hall, the war stories, and the passage of time as he spent days back on the original sets in conversation with them all. He was deeply funny, but equally raw and vulnerable…he looked straight down the barrel of the lens and shared with us all, in that knowing Hagrid way, that he knew he was nearing the end and was proud of the legacy he would leave behind.”
In the special, an emotional Coltrane stated, “The legacy of the movies is that my children’s generation will show them to their children.” So you could easily be watching it in 50 years. Unfortunately, I won’t be present, but Hagrid will. “