RIP Robbie Coltrane

It was indeed sad to hear of Robbie Coltrane’s passing last week. Anyone that knew his work knew of his uncompromising wit, uncanny facial expressions and unmistakable presence. His most famous role was that of Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. In fact, most of the online accolades cited this role. There is no doubt that he was a pleasure to watch and added some serious weight, shall we say, to the movies. I would though venture another role allowed the real Robbie Coltrane to shine.

Robbie hosted a series of documentaries on engines; yes engines. It was called Coltrane’s Planes & Automobiles, but it was about the engines. They included steam, Diesel, turbines and the V8, to name a few. Each of these episodes is a gift. But, the V8 episode was the standout. It was of course filled with incredible one liners and his unmistakable presence. However, all of the episodes, and the V8 in particular, struck a much deeper chord. 

At many points in the V8 episode Robbie worked on an engine. He knew what he was doing. He knew how to use a socket wrench. He knew how to tap off the top of an engine block with a ball-peen hammer and he knew how to throttle a carburetor. It was evident that this was a true love. He likely spent many hours as a teen tinkering on his or the family car. It is evident in his eyes, his ease and his familiarity with the subject. He knew about what he was talking! 

Dare I say that Robbie was in love with the technology. He was not some well known presenter from TV or film hired to host these documentaries. He was not there to market something. It was not some gig his agent arranged to make some coin. He knew what he was doing. It was real. Robbie was passionate about the subject.

A final thought. If you ever watch the series the music selection is worth the price of admission. What music goes with engines? They figured it out. The music of the V8 felt so right for it and that of the Diesel felt right for it, even though it was completely different. The final scene in the Diesel episode really transports you to a different time and place. One can only imagine what Robbie saw and felt where he stood. One can only imagine being overwhelmed by the power he was witnessing and absorbing. The music conveyed this feeling.

Robbie Coltrane played many notable roles in his life. It will however, be this more modest role of hosting documentaries about engines that I will remember. It is the role in which I believe we saw the real Robbie Coltrane.