[7 July 2008]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane (“Cracker” “Harry Potter”) admits that he’s a gypsy, and will probably never change. “When I started to be successful in the ‘80s I had a pretty good life, really, no responsibilities,” he says.
“There is something terribly romantic about just hopping on a plane somewhere with just a suitcase and a script. It is like being an adventurer really, and nobody worrying about when you come home or if anything you left at home will be there when you get back,” says Coltrane, who costarred as the half-giant Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” films.
“I rather enjoyed that. Gypsies and vagabonds, that’s what they call actors.”
That’s one reason Coltrane is the perfect foil to mount his vintage Jaguar roadster and take off into the hinterlands for the new DVD “Robbie Coltrane: Incredible Britain,” due on July 15.
Though the show was seen on British telly it’s never aired here. And Coltrane manages to unearth the nation’s real eccentrics and characters almost as colorful as the ones he has played on the screen.
“A very high percentage of English movies,” he says, “are about ‘English’ people - people who wear white flannels and play cricket.”
Coltrane first became known in the U.S. as star of several comedies like “Nuns on the Run” and “The Adventures of Huck Finn.”
“I was always funny when I was a kid,” he says. “My father was funny. You could get round my dad by being funny. He was quite strict but you could get round him if you were funny enough. I got into endless trouble for being naughty, for impersonating the (school) masters and things like that. I was a rebel at school. I went to a very strict school where the rules were just insane. You weren’t allowed to walk past (the office) with your hands in your pocket.
“At the time, of course, I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t fit in. But as you get older you suddenly wonder what was wrong with the people who DID fit in. But you don’t have that strength when you’re a teenager.”
Coltrane hit pay dirt when he was cast as the overweight, boozing police psychiatrist in the winning British TV series, “Cracker.”
Even with a run of luck like that, you’re never sure about your future, he says. “For two or three days after a part is over I think I’ll never work again. Even with a part like ‘Cracker,’ I thought, ‘I’ll never get a part like this again. It’s downhill from now on.’
” ... Of all jobs you can choose, being an actor has the highest unemployment. Even the people at top, you think of people like John Travolta who didn’t work for 10 years and now everyone says he’s a genius. You think, ‘Yes, but he always was. He was a genius when you weren’t employing him.’”
Job stability lacks risk, he says. “The more dull the job the less likely you were ever to get fired. People made a deal with themselves that they were going with security and not necessarily much fulfillment. But that’s not true anymore. They’re laying off people who work in banks by the thousands. I think we’re all going to be gypsies and vagabonds one of these days.”
Acting is a trade-off, he thinks. “I always thought an insecure life was just the way life was, and I coped with it. And I guess the insecurity is balanced by the excitement. It’s like those guys who drive race cars. They might get killed but then they’re getting the thrill of their lives, they’re doing something they HAVE to do.”
Coltrane, whose father was a general surgeon, attended a posh private school and later studied art. His father had died by the time Coltrane decided to become an actor. When he told his mother she wasn’t terribly pleased about it. “Now that I’m a parent myself you can see that,” says Coltrane, who has two kids a son, 15 and a daughter 10.
A veteran of two James Bond films and scores of others, Coltrane manages to keep working in spite of his doubts. “I’m not a star,” he insists. “Half of the women in Nebraska don’t want to have my child. Not everybody in movies is there because they’re fulfilling some sexual fantasies for the audience. There are some people that do that. I just do something else.”
If scripts are like children to writers, how do they pick their favorites? Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files,” and his major writer, Frank Spotnitz, have settled on eight of their favorite episodes of the long-running series for a new DVD, “‘The X-Files Revelations,” in stores this week. Each selection is accompanied by an explanation about why it was chosen and why it was significant in the series. Included is the right-on pilot as well as “Beyond the Sea,” “The Host,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Memento Mori,” “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” “Bad Blood” and “Milagro” - spanning seasons one through six.
Who knew that the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” would spawn such a shipload of manly, rugged, bite-the-bullet job-related TV shows? We now have the daring “Ice Road Truckers,” the intrepid loggers of “Ax Men,” the sweating wildcats of “Black Gold,” and the derring-doers of “Tougher in Alaska.” Marshaling on Aug. 3 will be “L.A. Hard Hats,” an on-the-job look at electricians, ironworkers, concrete crews and the men who raise our high rises airing on the National Geographic Channel. If there is one thing that sets America apart from the rest of the modern world it is the expertise of our skilled workmen. Anyone who has had to deal with a plumber in a foreign country knows that. These stalwart blue-collar shows offer not only reality thrills but a closer look at these unsung heroes.
Desperate for something decent for the kids to watch this summer as they cool off their sunburns? Skip on over to Turner Classic Movies, where Chris O’Donnell and Abigail Breslin (who costar in “Kitt Kittridge: An American Girl”) will be hosting what the channel calls “TCM Essentials Jr.” The pair will comment and host a series of classic films good for the entire family. On July 20 they offer Buster Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr.” and Laurel and Hardy’s “The Music Box.”
“I love Buster Keaton,” says O’Donnell. “You always have to remind yourself that he’s doing his own stunts. The scene where he’s jumping over the tops of the railroad cars and grabs onto the water tower, when the water came down it actually broke his neck. But he didn’t know it until years later.”