Robbie Coltrane was a Scottish actor and comedian who was famous for portraying Rubeus Hagrid in all of the Harry Potter film series (2001–2011). He also played Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky in the James Bond films GoldenEye (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), along with many other film and television roles. In 1990, he won the Evening Standard British Film Award – Peter Sellers Award for Comedy. In 2006, he received an Order of the British Empire, and in 2011, he was honored at the British Academy Scotland Awards. He died on October 14, 2022 at age 72, after being virtually bedridden for his last three years for heart disease, diabetes and arthritis caused by his massive obesity.
Rise to Fame with a Self-Destructive Lifestyle
Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan to a mother who was a teacher and pianist, and a father who was a general surgeon. He majored in drawing, painting and film at Glasgow Art School, and at age 23 made a film on psychological problems in young people which was voted Film Of The Year by the Scottish Education Council. At that time, he changed his name to Robbie Coltrane, in honor of the famous jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. He appeared in several films such as “The Comic Strip” series, “Alfresco” and “The Supergrass.”
By 1986, at age 36, he was destroying his body by drinking as much as a bottle of whiskey a day, and gaining massive amounts of weight. He flew to a clinic in Mexico to be treated for obesity. In 1988, he met an 18-year-old student, Rhona Gemmell, in a pub. They moved to a remote farmhouse near Loch Lomond, where she became a sculptor and they raised two children. He was able to limit some of his drinking and lost some of his excess weight, but if alcoholics drink at all, they will eventually drink to excess. While he was filming the third Harry Potter film in 2003, Rhona left him. He sought medical treatment for his obesity and alcoholism. Five years later, they tried to reconcile, but realized it was hopeless and separated permanently. Coltrane continued his career but lived in almost complete isolation, reading books and rebuilding vintage cars in Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Fatty Liver and Diabetes
Most cases of type II diabetes are caused by a fatty liver. A high rise in blood sugar can damage every cell in your body. To prevent blood sugar from rising too high after a meal, your pancreas releases insulin that lowers high blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver. However, if the liver is full of fat, the liver does not accept the sugar, and the liver releases even more sugar to drive blood sugar even higher. This is called insulin resistance in which a person cannot respond to insulin, so blood sugar levels rise too high, which can eventually cause clots to form in the brain to cause a stoke and in the heart arteries to cause a heart attack.
Coltrane had several of the risk factors for death from diabetes including massive obesity, yoyo dieting, alcoholism, arthritis, inactivity and depression.
• Diabetes: A major cause of heart attacks and strokes because it increases clotting.
• Obesity: fills your liver up with fat to increase risk for diabetes. At the height of his career, Coltrane was voted the “UK’s sexiest fat man.”
• Yoyo dieting weakens muscles over time because every time you lose weight, you lose fat and muscle and bone, but when you regain the lost weight, you gain only fat. Less muscle means you burn fewer calories which make you more likely to gain the weight back again. Your liver then fills up with more fat, the most common cause of diabetes.
• Alcohol damages the liver so normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissues that fill up with fat. Several times Coltrane told reporters, “Booze is my undoing. I can drink a gallon of beer and not feel the least bit drunk.”
• Arthritis is often caused by inflammation when an overactive immune system attacks your joints and other parts of your body. He was in “constant pain all day” for the last seven years of his life and was able to move only in a wheelchair for the last three years.
• Inactivity: He was so obese that he could hardly move, so he spent most of his time sitting and lying which made his heart so weak that it could barely pump enough blood through his body.
• Depression makes you inactive so you can’t exercise, and prevents people from engaging in activities other than overeating, drinking alcohol, and sleeping.
Sad Lesson from Coltrane’s Life
Diabetes means that your blood sugar rises too high after meals. You get cell damage every time your blood sugar rises over 145mg/dL, so you can be diabetic even if your fasting blood sugar is normal (less than 100mg/dL). Most cases of type II diabetes are caused by insulin insensitivity, usually from excess fat in the liver. When you get the excess fat out of your liver through weight loss, you may no longer be diabetic.
March 30, 1950 – October 14, 2022