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Looking For Robbie: A Biography Of Robbie Coltrane [Hardcover]

Neil Norman
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Nov 1999

¿I swore I¿d never write another biography. Why did I say yes? Easy question, answer difficult. Amongst the shards of why, the abiding motivation is I like Robbie Coltrane. I like his work, I like the man, I like his location in the (in)human landscape of celebrity.¿

This is not your usual ¿born here did that¿ biography. This is Neil Norman¿s account of Coltrane and his work, of the process of finding out about someone who you don¿t know, of living with someone who¿s in your life but never part of it. It is a biography of Coltrane where you learn almost as much about the author and the notion of celebrity as anything else.

The bare bones are known: actor, comedian and auto-mechanic, Robbie Coltrane has 300 accents at his command and can fix anything from a vintage Cadillac Eldorado to a wonky cigar lighter. Born 48 years ago in Glasgow, Anthony Robert MacMillan is the son of a police surgeon and a pianist. Always a fat boy he developed his rapid wit to divert potential bullies. From stand-up comic to Comic Strip player to film (Mona Lisa) and TV star, Robbie Coltrane found real success in Tutti Frutti and even more in Cracker. His private life has had its wild moments, sometimes attributed to his reaction to the death of one of his sisters of a drug overdose while at university. He is now married to sculptress Rona Gemmell, 22 years his junior. They have a son called Spencer.

Those are the facts. You¿ll be surprised what Neil Norman makes of them .

Product details

  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First Edition edition (18 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752807498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752807492
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,685,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Robbie Coltrane is the kind of guy who doesn't like the press; he doesn't like intrusive interviews and, as for folks rummaging round his dustbin of life, ... well, let's just not say what he reckons to them.

Neil Norman's job was therefore not an easy one. Despite being an acclaimed film critic on London's Evening Standard and the author of several other titles (including a Connery biography and the Insignificance movie tie-in), the closest contact Robbie allowed here was cosmic empathy.

The result is intriguing. Certainly, Norman's use of his sources is thorough. His press-cuts research is good; his content analysis of the Cracker series worthy of a character study by Fitz himself--but one does wonder how many of the authors' conclusions (usually based on Coltrane's on-screen personalities) are the product of old-fashioned "hunches" rather than more scientific analysis of the man's real life.

In any case, the read here is entertaining. Really, it is a biography of a film career rather than a life, with each performance impeccably dissected. To maintain a happy balance of interest, salient and affecting life events are allowed to creep in, along with a third-person Bridget Jones style account of yo-yo diets.

There are omissions here. Robbie's art school days are almost untouched; the disparity between his expensive schooling and unremarkable upbringing remains unquestioned and the whole Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance contradiction Robbie displays between his joint passions for things metaphysical and beautifully automotive remains largely unexplored (and just as well, you may be thinking).

Do not be mistaken into believing that just because the study is incomplete, it is not worthwhile. Neil Norman really did go looking for Robbie and the film parts he found were big and wholesome. The search is still on, however, for the deep dark corners of the actor's mind. --Helen Lamont

Book Description

An unusual biography of the charismatic Robbie Coltrane.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very thin content for the big man 17 April 2001
I completely agree with (what is at the moment) the only other customer review of this book. Don't buy this book. I'm just slightly puzzled that they nonetheless gave it a 5 star rating.
The first chapter involves the author writing how clever *he* is, then we have a few more chapters the content of which seems to mix and repeat what little facts are known as if they were seperate articles, not part of a book.
Then we have the film and 'Cracker' synposes. Well, I liked Cracker, and it was nice to be reminded of the stories, but for god's sake, I read this book in one sitting and could put all the Coltrane data onto the back of a beermat.
Perhaps the one good thing about this book was that that although I'd learnt next to nothing, at least the man's privacy (which he evidently holds very dear) had not been laid bare. I'd bought a book to dig things up and was surprised to find myself pleased that I found nothing.
Robbie Coltrane sounds like a man as facinating as he is intriguing. This biography (made without his help) acts as a kind of clever warning. (as if he'd said 'OK, if there's going to be a biography about me, I don't see whay I should help.'). He's a private man whose private life has certainly not been invaded by this book nor will it encourage future research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Poor, Poor attempt and NOT a Biography... 6 Oct 2012
Author Neil Norman must have thought "easy money, I've already done the interview" and carried on from there. The book starts with an interview Norman had with Coltrane some time before beginning work on this book. Even here, the only time he comes face to face with Coltrane, Norman isn't content to just print the (already printed) interview, he analyses it and dissects everything Coltrane says, every nuance is held under Normans own microscope. He gives his bitter opinion of everything Coltrane says or does and in the course of this autopsy implies that any interview or conversation with Coltrane will leave you floundering in smoke and mirrors and you must always read between the lines to get the truth. Norman practically congratulates himself on how clever he is at seeing through Coltranes veneer and how well written his original article was. It is a very petty, snidey opening chapter and a short one at that. It concludes with the admission that this book will not actually be a biography at all;
"Rather than abandon the book...I have ...come up with an alternative method of dealing with the subject. I shall attempt to discover the nature of Coltrane through his work rather than his life."

As if this facetiousness wasn't enough, his next two chapters go on to draw on other peoples writings of Coltranes childhood and schooling, and again Norman takes pleasure in pointing out (in his opinion) Coltranes errors in describing his schooling, how Coltranes answers can't be trusted etc. It must be said, Norman is in fact quite an anus. When he occasionally offers praise for a performance at is more often than not immediately followed by comments on Coltranes weight or relationships. The book then lurches into film review mode for the next 100 pages and quite poorly at that.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy this book 10 Jan 2000
By A Customer
I was given this book for Christmas, it was not enough to ward off the post christmas pre-millenial tedium.
Rarely has so little material been stretched to fill a reasonably sized hardback. Based on no more substance than a press interview long ago, Neil Norman has spun other press materials and unattributed statements from 'friends' into this book.
The main part of the book is taken up with synopses of the Cracker episodes, having disposed of the best part of 100 pages that way; plot synopses of all Coltrane films complete most of the rest. Save your money, Coltrane fans, this is poor indeed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars took awhile 23 Dec 2007
By Jodi L. Bauer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This order took awhile to get, but the company that was handling it kept in communication with me to let me know where my order stood. I would do business with this company again.
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