Robbie Coltrane Interviews
Plays Down Cracker Success
Friday, June 7, 1996
a giggle in his voice when Robbie Coltrane, TV's popular
Cracker, insists he's no sex symbol. Although he was in the most
recent James Bond thriller, Goldeneye, the portly Scottish actor
says Cracker hasn't resulted in a rush of job offers. "I'm
difficult to cast, I know that. But producers always think I'm
working on Cracker and don't ring up. I'm busy five months of
the year on it but I'd like to do other things in-between."
The Arts and Entertainment Network runs a new three-hour TV
movie of Cracker, titled Brotherly Love, next Tuesday at 9 PM
EST. Coltrane doesn't want to be typecast as Cracker."He's
not me. He's a character created by a writer, Jimmy McGovern. A
great challenge to play. But I am not as brilliant, nor am I
Formula Making A Star Out Of Coltrane
you see the tabloid picture of a guy who's murdered eight
people, you always look at the eyes," says Robbie Coltrane,
looking at yours. "You look," the Scotsman burrs on,
"to see if you could have told it ahead of time -- DON'T ya?!
-- and you think, 'How the (heck) does somebody get like that?'
"And the frightening thing, the really frightening thing
is, they're only about 5 percent different from you and
me." Uhhh. Well. Point taken, Robbie -- who for that moment
seemed bewitchingly like Dr. Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald,
the man Coltrane is bringing to life for a third splendid season
of "Cracker" mysteries on A&E.See "Best
Boys" Aug. 6 and "True Romance" Sept. 3. And
don't miss tonight's episode, which airs from 9 PM to midnight
EDT. A co- production of A&E and Britain's Granada
Television, "Cracker" centers on Fitz, a forensic
psychologist in Manchester, England, who solves crime. Well,
sort of. As Coltrane notes, there are two traditional kinds of
cop shows. One begins with audience and crime-fighters equally
in the dark,as the unfolding story reveals the culprit to all.
With the other type, the audience learns whodunit at the get-go,
then watches the cops hash it out. But there's a third way. The
"Cracker" way: "Everybody knows who did it,"
says Coltrane, "but nobody knows why." Fitz, then, is
a man satisfied to let the who, what, when and where of a
misdeed take care of themselves. Nailing down the why is his
mystery, "Brotherly Love," begins with a prostitute's
murder and the swift arrest of her john, an unimposing family
man. To shore up their case, the police ask Fitz to interview
the suspect. But the script -- written by "Cracker"
creator Jimmy McGovern -- plumbs deeper and slices wider. Making
good on its title by exploring fraternal entanglements, the tale
even prefigures the real-life family tragedy of Ted Kaczynski,
the suspecting the Unabomber case, and the brother who turned
him in. As usual, Fitz is brilliant -- and a mess. "He is
totally flawed," Coltrane says with infinite approval.
Meeting with a reporter during a recent visit to the States,
Coltran proves a far cheerier bloke than the world-weary Fitz
seems to know how to be. A heavyset man in jeans and white sport
shirt, with coffee and a cigar in close reach, Coltrane is keen
to explain how "Fitz is an immensely perceptive person who
knows exactly, instinctively, what is going on in other people.
He is fantastically attuned to everybody -- but himself."
Oh, occasionally, Fitz will train his considerable skills inward
for a moment of boozy, pitying self-scrutiny. On tonight's
episode, he laments, "I drink too much. I smoke too much. I
gamble too much. I AM too much." Coltrane says he took on
Fitz "determined not to make him likable or attractive.
Then after the first episode, I thought, 'God, the viewers are
all gonna HATE this guy!' He's so horrible to his wife. He's got
no relationship with his kids. He's bombastic and he's bullying.
He's terrible. "But somewhere along the line, there's some
kind of saving quality about him. I haven't been able to work
out what it is, to be honest. But I get nice letters, though:
'Dear Love God.' " Coltrane rolls his eyes puckishly.
native of Glasgow, Coltrane has done much stage, TV and film
work in Britain, but remained best-known here for his starring
role in 1989's antic feature "Nuns on the Run" --
until "Cracker." "The original description of
Fitz was a small, wiry man who looked as if he'd spent a lot of
time in the Army," says Coltrane, who then addresses his
own expansive frame and ample girth: "So, naturally they
found me." Were you always large? the reporter wants to
know. "Well," says Coltrane, suddenly guarded,
"this isn't an area we want to go into, I don't think. The
big-guy stuff. I get this from the British press all the time,
and if I got thin tomorrow, they'd still describe me as
'ex-roly-poly comedian.' It's just something you can't escape
from. And it isn't terribly relevant." Understood. But how
mistaken he is. Just consider how Coltrane carries his big-guy
self when playing Fitz: Behold the trudging gait of someone
weighted down by life, yet propelled by his own grand defiance.
But Coltrane is a bit more game when asked how the final
"Cracker," whenever that is, might dispose of its
hero. "He could lose 100 pounds jogging," the actor
offers with a smile. "He might spend a lot of time in
California and get a nice tan." Not likely. Fitz has better
things to do. Coltrane, too
Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006