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Hagrid's double; 6ft 10in, 20st English rugby hero is stand-in for 6ft 1in, 23st, Scots movie star Robbie.

Byline: Jamie MacAskill Exclusive

IT'S enough to make boy wizard Harry Potter fall off his broomstick.

His giant chum Hagrid can today be unmasked - as an England rugby player.

Spec-wearing Harry has been seeing double on the Scottish set of The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the third of JK Rowling's Potter books to be filmed.

For while Robbie Coltrane, who stars as Hogwarts groundsman Hagrid, rested a giant stand- in took his place on the set.

And we can reveal that the second Hagrid filming in Glencoe is actually former England rugby star and "hammer of the Scots" Martin Bayfield.

Yesterday, a film insider said: "Filling in for Hagrid is a tall order - and Martin's one of the only people around big enough to fill Robbie's boots."

Towering Bayfield, who played at lock forward, was brought in after 23- stone Coltrane, 53, told movie bosses that he could only wear his heavy Hagrid costume for two to three minutes at a time because of the intense heat.

But fitness fan Martin, 36, who weighs in at 20 stones, can manage 15 minutes as Hagrid, giving camera crews vital time to film long shots and action sequences.

During filming last week in Glencoe's spectacular Clachaig Gully, Martin - who at 6ft 10in towers over 6ft 1in Robbie - sported a huge beard and padded costume.

He even had an elaborate mask to make him look like the "real" Hagrid which only allowed him to blink and move his mouth soundlessly.

Robbie was on the set on Thursday, where he was spotted puffing on a cigar in casual clothes while watching the action being filmed.

In the meantime, Martin was sweltering in full costume inside Hagrid's Hut filming with young co-stars Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint - Harry's pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

Our source on the set said: "Martin was involved in the first two Harry Potter films and really enjoys the work. It's a bit of a change from rugby but it's great fun.

"He's even getting used to his old mates from his playing days calling him `darling' and `luvvie'.

"The work can be exhausting though. With the costume, beard and make up it is sweltering.

"Martin's a fit guy but even he admits it's hard work. There's no way Robbie would be able to do it by himself."

Martin, a former policeman, was a tower of strength for the England rugby team before injury forced his retirement in 1996.

In his five-year international career he lost just nine of his 31 games, including four victories over Scotland.

He was never on the losing side when the Scots took on the Auld Enemy.

Since becoming Robbie's official body double, Martin has signed up with the actors' union Equity and also appeared in the TV sitcom Time Gentleman Please alongside comedian Al Murray.

Prisoner of Azkaban spokeswoman Vanessa Davies confirmed the heavyweight rugby star had been working as Coltrane's double and said filming in Scotland was going well - despite a few setbacks due to heavy rain.

She said: "We have been shooting in Scotland since Monday. Thursday was our first day at Glencoe.

"Robbie has been here with the children throughout. He was with us all week, including scenes shot in the cattle market.

"He is in very good spirits, joking with the crew and the cast in every scene he has shot. There is certainly nothing untoward going on. Any shot that he is scheduled to be in there has been no change of plan."

Sir Michael Gambon, who replaces the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore, arrived on set on Friday.

Other big names joining the Potter regulars in the film include Gary Oldman as the sinister Sirius Black, Paul Whitehouse as madcap knight Sir Cadogan and Dr Zhivago star Julie Christie as Madam Rosmerta, owner of the Three Broomsticks pub.

Filming north of the border was due to last 11 days but the adverse weather means the production is battling to keep up with the schedules.

Up to 350 cast and crew are expected to generate pounds 3million spin-offs for the area.

Despite this being the third film in the Harry Potter series it is the first to actually film with actors on location in Scotland.

Movie insiders say audience favourite Coltrane has shown no signs of stress despite the recent split from wife Rhona, 34.

Late on Friday, Coltrane was whisked into the set by a privately-hired helicopter.
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 18, 2003
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