Friday 18 September 2020


At seventy years old Harry Potter and Cracker star Robbie Coltrane is in a happier place than he has been for years - emerging out of the shadows to hit the screen and play one of his lifelong heroes. 
And the new role sees Robbie who has now had long awaited surgery to remedy his painful knee, taking on the guise of Orson Welles, the man voted the greatest film director of all time in Urban Myths: Orson  Welles in Norwich for Sky Arts. 
It’s Robbie’s first on screen appearance in four years since Channel 4 drama National Treasure - unless you count his brief appearance on Universal’s 2019 theme park Hagrid’s Motorbike Ride voicing an animated figure. 
The Rutherglen born actor who came into the world as Anthony Robert McMillan has had a preoccupation with Citizen Kane director, star of The Third Man and creator of War of The Worlds Welles since he was a young boy and has frequently talked about his admiration for the American talent who he first witnessed on screen when he was eleven years old. 
His mother Jean Ross, a teacher and pianist, was a film fan and they would sit together and watch old movies on TV.
He saw The Third Man when he was 11 featuring the famous scene where Orson Welles as Harry Lime steps out of the shadows and the light from a window falls on his upturned face.
Robbie, whose father, Ian Baxter McMillan was a general surgeon who also worked for police pathology also gave young Robbie books to read on medicine and crime. 
Robbies first foray onto the stage at the age of twelve was to deliver rants from Henry V - a favourite of Welles in Chimes At Midnight - at Glenalmond College, but he claims it was 1969 when he first realised the strength of Welles on screen persona. 
He said in a recent interview with Radio Times: “They showed Citizen Kane at the film club and I just thought, Who is that guy? It’s been a lifelong thing since then.”
Indeed later on Robbie agreed to appear in the 2008 movie The Brothers Bloom because he’d been told the writer Rian Johnson was the new Orson Welles. 
He revealed at the time: “Rian Johnson's a big hero of mine because of Brick. Although I hadn't seen it, everyone told me Brick was the best film made for about 10 years and he was the new Orson Welles, and if he sent me a script I'd have to do it for nothing if necessary. I got the script, and I just thought yes, I would do it for nothing."
Robbie also admitted he was  flattered when one reviewer described him as a ‘low rent Orson Welles’ so it was a natural choice for him to be picked as leading man For the Sky Arts drama based on the incident called F For Fakenham. The story goes Orson was abducted by an armed gang in Norfolk after travelling there to make a series of mystery dramas with Anglia Television.
Robbie said:  “Nobody knows if it‘s actually true.”
Robbie believes Welles greatest gift was storytelling and continued: “Listening to him was just like sitting with a pal and a whisky in front of a roaring fire and saying, ‘Let me tell you a story’ and you don’t care if it’s true. You just want to hear what happens next.’
Physically the two bear a portly resemblance and Robbie admitted: “I had no problem with his voice because we were the same kitchen. A Scotsman doing American is no stretch because a lot of the American accent did come from the Scots.”

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