The first Harry Potter the film initially describes the night Harry discovers he is a wizard as a scene from a horror movie. Harry and the unsavory Dursleys – his uncle, aunt and cousin – have fled to a cottage on a remote island, attempting to escape letters warning Harry of his magic. But the messenger arrives anyway, in the form of a half-giant named Hagrid. The Dursleys huddle and scream as he knocks, the rain hits the roof and the overwhelming John Williams scores crescendo, until Hagrid breaks the door and enters. “Sorry about that,” he sighs, returning the piece of wood to its frame. With three little words and a timid arch of the eyebrows, the tension dissipates. Hagrid is not a fearsome monster, but a friendly visitor. In fact, he might even feel a little guilty for causing such a ruckus in the middle of the night.
Such was the power of Robbie Coltrane, the Scottish actor who died yesterday at the age of 72 and who, to a generation of Potter fans, was best known for playing Hagrid in eight films. The character, as written on the page, was a clumsy, delightful and always loyal ally to Harry and his friends, his outward appearance and affection for evil magical creatures hiding a gentle core. In the role, Coltrane, already 6’1 “tall, had to perform with extra-small props and sets, don a padded coat, and stand on platforms to tower over his co-stars. Yet the challenge of being Hagrid doesn’t it was only physical. Coltrane, through a decade of film, infused him with a depth and warmth that made him feel not only immediately memorable, but real. In doing so, he subtly pushed against the inclinations of the screenplays to transform the character. in a simple comic relief or an adorable fool.
Not that Hagrid wasn’t funny or lovable. In the books, the character was eccentric, an adult Harry and his friends were comfortable visiting regularly for casually chat over tea, or for the occasional information they needed to carry out an illicit mission, given the lips. loose by Hagrid. The gardener of Hogwarts after being expelled from the magical institute in his youth, Hagrid was himself a child, just growing up. He was proud to be part of the staff, but he wanted to practice magic with the same freedom they did, and he often drank silly. He’s the kind of wacky who took care of man-eating spiders and fearsome dragons, whom he called a terrifying three-headed dog “Fluffy”, but named a docile hound “Fang”.
The films were largely faithful to Hagrid’s story, but had a tendency to tease and gawk at the character. In the first installment, Hagrid’s birthday cake for Harry is decorated with a misspelled icing (“Happee Birthdae”), an unnecessary blow to Harry’s intelligence, considering how the books didn’t do such a thing. In the fourth film, Goblet of Fire, Hagrid’s attraction to a romantic interest leads him to stab a colleague in the hand with a fork, a rather violent manifestation of his awkwardness that doesn’t even appear in the text. Many times, when Hagrid spoke, the characters treated him as a nuisance, reacting with eyes to heaven or grimaces, talking to him as if he were weak.
Coltrane began his career as a comedian, doing cabaret in Edinburgh and performing on the sketch show, Outdoors, along with the likes of Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson. When it came to playing Hagrid, however, Coltrane never took too much of a caricature approach. Even Hagrid’s craziest moments came with an awareness, a vulnerability that captured the character’s tough past, as a half-giant abandoned by his giantess mother, bullied by Hogwarts classmates and desperate to keep its genetic history is secret. The actor seemed to understand that Hagrid’s struggles gave him a toughness that turned not into resentment, but into a profound ability to embrace characters like Harry, Ron and Hermione, the ones who found it just as difficult to adapt to everyone else.
Take the scene where he introduces them to his stepbrother, the giant Grawp, for example. The situation is absurd, almost farcical: he needs the trio to keep Grawp company while he’s away, and the dialogue requires Hagrid to insist on their help as the struggle between good and evil intensifies. “He’s completely harmless, just like I said,” he explains, “even though the cheerful spirit is everything … You’ll take care of him, won’t you?” But instead of offering these words forcefully, Coltrane says them in a low voice, alluding to Hagrid’s guilt and despair over the request. When the scene ends, he is almost holding back the tears.
Hagrid, aside from a touching sequence at the end of the second film, was rarely the star of the show, but his compassion for the heroes helped to sustain the heart of the sprawling story, and Coltrane recognized his character’s value from the start. . In an interview for the franchise’s 20th anniversary special, the actor compared Hagrid to Superman. “You wish there was a power for good in the world that was irresistible to the bad guys,” he said. “And Hagrid was obviously always the good guy, wasn’t he?” He certainly was.