REARRANGING the letters in Robbie Coltrane's name gives ''blob recreation''. If he'd stuck to his real name (Anthony Robert McMillan) he wouldn't have had that problem.

As it is, Robbie Coltrane has always battled the bulge in one form or another. Yet he has

used this weakness to his benefit. And now it's one of

his strengths.

As a youngster, Coltrane's eating was shaping not just his body, but his future. Born in 1950 in Rutherglen, Glasgow, he enjoyed a middle-class existence - his father was a GP, his mother a teacher. After primary school he was sent to Glenalmond in Perthshire. Here he developed a dislike for public schooling: the authoritarian regime, the bullying, the beatings behind closed doors.

Coltrane, known as Fat Rab, discovered comedy was his best weapon. By the age of 15 he was 6ft 1in tall and played prop in the school's rugby team, also donning a Scottish Schoolboys strip regularly.

But it wasn't all laughter,

for the teenager suffered

two tragedies. First his father died from lung cancer, then

his younger sister, Jane, committed suicide.

He took to visiting his older sister, Annie, frequently. Annie was studying graphic art in Edinburgh, and it wasn't long before Coltrane discovered he, too, was an artist, and enrolled at Glasgow Art School.

Coltrane's future, however, lay elsewhere. He had already, at the age of 12, dabbled in theatre, and by 1973 had created a 50-minute documentary, Young Mental Health (voted film of the year by the Scottish Education Council).

This gave him a taste for theatre and he jettisoned the family name, opting for Coltrane after the jazz legend John Coltrane. He started to socialise with actors, even taking a job as a chauffeur driving directors and stars.

It wasn't long before he was treading the boards. He started working with playwright and director John Byrne in The Slab Boys and Cuttin' a Rug, and joined Emma Thompson and Fry and Laurie for the Comic Strip film series.

A flurry of roles followed, including that of a gay hairdresser in Mickeys Dolenz's Metal Mickey, and the chance to prove himself as a serious actor in Absolute Beginners and Mona Lisa. Then came the part of Big Jazza of the Majestics in Tutti Frutti, followed by Nuns on the Run, The Pope Must Die, and his Bafta-winning portrayal of forensic psychologist Eddie ''Fitz'' Fitzgerald in the TV series Cracker.

Coltrane was already attracting press, having become a party animal and a hard-drinking hellraiser. This changed, however, when he met sculptor Rhona Gemmell. They wed in secrecy and Inveraray in December 1999, with just 35 friends (including Dawn French, Lenny Henry, and Muriel Gray) looking on. The couple settled down in a converted barn in Killearn, near Glasgow, and had two children.

While his personal life had calmed down, Coltrane was still licensed to thrill on the screen as he entered the world of Bond . . . James Bond. So eager was he to portray KGB man Valentin Zukovsky that the scriptwriters changed the storyline of Goldeneye. Bond no longer killed Zukovsky, allowing Coltrane to return in The World Is Not Enough.

A Bond movie was a hard act to follow, but Coltrane did it with the role of Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It's rumoured that Coltrane was one of only two actors specifically requested by J K Rowling (the other being Maggie Smith).

Coltrane is already working on the follow-up, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and that's about as big as it gets. Even for someone the size of Robbie Coltrane.

Robbie Coltrane appears in The World Is Not Enough at 8.40pm on ITV1.