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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 00:30 GMT
Coltrane spills Potter beans
Coltrane (r) and Richard Harris with Potter children
Those pesky kids: Coltrane (r) and Richard Harris with Potter children
In the run-up to the release of the Harry Potter movie on Friday, Robbie Coltrane, alias Hagrid, reveals to Belinda Rhodes what went on behind the scenes during filming.

The timing of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which will hit screens in the UK and US on 16 November, is very fortuitous, says Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane.

As audiences around the world deal with news of war and terror on a daily basis, two and a half hours of fun will lift the spirits.

"It's about the triumph of good over evil and we can all use a bit of that," says Coltrane, who plays the gruff but gentle Hagrid the giant in the long-awaited film (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US).

Coltrane as Hagrid
Coltrane plays Hagrid in the second Potter movie as well
Coltrane is best known in Britain for playing an abrasive forensic psychologist in the 1990s TV series Cracker.

He is playing Hagrid again in the second Harry Potter film, which is due to be released next year. He says he would have concerns about playing the role over and over again, for fear of getting typecast.

Chemistry

But he says he is equally at home with comedy and fantasy and found the 130 days of shooting on Harry Potter extremely entertaining.

He recalls the laughs he had on the set with the film's young stars. "It's very important to have an off-screen chemistry with the children if you're going to have it on-screen," he says.

"Kids can't fake liking somebody so we hung out a bit beforehand."

And "hanging out" sometimes meant having jokes played on him, as Emma Watson, 11, who plays the clever and snooty Hermione Granger, recalls.

"We made labels saying 'kick me' and stuck them on Robbie's back," she grins, adding that the 51-year-old actor noticed something was wrong after being kicked about three times.

Robbie Coltrane
Robbie Coltrane: "A great sense of humour"
But she says he took it well: "Robbie Coltrane's got the best sense of humour ever."

Daniel Radcliffe, 12, who plays Harry Potter himself, also had some fun at Coltrane's expense, changing the display language of his mobile phone to Turkish.

"It's impossible to change it back unless you know the Turkish for 'change language'," laughs Coltrane, whose dressing room was placed right next to those of the children until he asked for it to be moved.

Elegance

"I said, 'get me away from those beasts'," he smiles.

But he did get his own back on them too. "If the camera's on them and you stick your finger up your nose, they're gone," he says, deadpan.

But Coltrane - whose own son was an extra in Harry Potter and thought his dad was Mr Cool for playing Hagrid - has a real affection for the children.

He describes Radcliffe, Watson and Rupert Grint, who plays Harry Potter's friend Ron, as "proper kids" not "showbiz brats", and says they were easy and fun to work with.

He found Watson the most professional, and says she has a "tremendous natural elegance about her".

'Dark side'

Grint, 13, who plays Harry's friend Ron, was the most natural actor and had great comic timing, according to Coltrane, while Daniel Radcliffe took longer to establish his character, but certainly got there in the end.

"Playing Harry Potter must be a terrible responsibility for a wee boy," says Coltrane. "But he's very like Harry."

Coltrane's caring side is reflected in his portrayal of Hagrid.

Though he is an enormous creature - Coltrane's own large frame being made to appear larger by special effects - he takes the children of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry under his wing and accidentally tells them things they're not supposed to know.

"He is a nurturing creature," says Coltrane. "He's got Norbert, his baby dragon, and he's not afraid of Fluffy (a huge, three-headed dog).

"But I didn't want to undermine the dark side of him, because he is a giant, and giants are unpredictable, as you know."

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Robbie Coltrane
"It's got so many elements in it"
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