It’s not, at the end, me who mentions the weight, which is fine. Mainly because I don’t really care, but partly because I have read he can be a touch twitchy on the subject, and as I am finding out, when Robbie Coltrane doesn’t want to talk about something he is a very final “no ”, utterly non-negotiable, heavy as an anchor, silent as a grudge. But he’s fine here, chatting away relatively easily about confidence, the mysteries of confidence, and explaining that he’s still not quite at ease with it all, has to occasionally pinch himself when in Hollywood. “When I was doing Ocean’s Twelvefor instance, I’m sitting at a table and there’s George Clooney, Matt Damon’s there, and Brad Pitt, and I’m just thinking… these are about the three most successful, most beautiful actors in the world. And here am I. A fat boy from Rutherglen… What the fuck am I doing here?”
Perhaps it’s confidence that made an overweight boy, schooled (and bullied) at Glenalmond, which is as close as Scotland wants to get to Eton, bounce back, survive disappointments (and taunts) at art school, and always revive and recover. And then suddenly, without training, just with intelligence and confidence, hit our screens as if made for them: filling them, in every sense.
“Confidence: what is it, you ask. Do you know, I have absolutely no idea. Absolutely none. I was talking about it the other day with Robert De Niro.” He stops, aware that he’s hamming it up rather than really answering, and that it is a question to which he could offer a serious answer. “Confidence is distributed in a completely random way. Some people have got stunning amounts of confidence and no talent, and other people have stunning amounts of talent and no confidence at all.
“If I walk into a room of people I don’t know, I’m incredibly shy, actually, but when I walk on to a film set I… I suppose I know where I should be and can do what I’m meant to be doing.” Yet so much of what he’s done, so many parts, seem to have been written simply for him: that is literally the case now, but it wasn’t always. “Ah, but that’s the trick. Sometimes I did feel utterly natural – it was me up there. But do you know, quite often not. You get paid to fake that. That’s what I do.
“So, as I was saying, I was with George Clooney and the rest, and thinking: what am I doing? And I have at one stage to say: you’re here, Robbie, cos George called you up, because he wanted you to be here. And, whatever it is I do, other actors seem to kind of like it. And we are, I must remember at the end, just doing a job: they, same as me, are just worried about remembering their lines. But there’s one idea I have to disavow you of. People who act confidently are not confident. They know how to act confidently. There’s quite a difference.”