Alan Rickman sadly passed away on 14th January at the age of 69 and I must agree with the general concensus that we have lost one of the greats. Every death and the life before is important but sometimes an actor’s death will have a profound impact on a large part of society simply because they have had the honour of touching so many peoples’ lives. (This is also true for other artists, so rest in peace Bowie). The best way in which we can honour an actor is to appreciate their work today and in the future, as their work will live on and provide further entertainment for generations not yet born.
Personally the name Alan Rickman brings to mind 6 specific roles, which I present to you now:
A film by Kevin Smith (Clerks) and starring many of his usual ensemble (Affleck, Jason Lee), Dogma is an unusual story that sees two former angels attempt to rejoin heaven whilst the last descendent of Christ, the 13th Apostle and Jay and Silent Bob attempt to prevent the ex-angels from doing so.
Rickman plays Metatron, the angel who is essentially the voice of god and spends the whole film looking bored and miserable and lamenting his inability to abide alcohol and the lack of respect he now gets from mankind. Rickman steals every scene he appears in and his wonderfully powerful voice brings a sense of realism to his character- if you were going to chose an actor to play the voice of god, Rickman should be at the top of your list (or possibly behind Morgan Freeman).
Love Actually (2003)
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, this ensemble film features a steller cast including Andrew Lincoln, Kiera Knightley, Colin Firth and Emma Thompson. Rickman plays a business man married to Thompson who finds himself tempted by a young, flirtatious office worker. Although his most famous roles include villains you find yourself wishing his character would make the right choice and simultaneously wincing at every mistake Rickman makes as he jeopardises his marriage throughout the movie. Thompson’s strong display is matched by Rickman in a subtle performance that shows his ability to play an ordinary character in an everyday situation while still standing out as one of the best performers in this modern Christmas classic.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
A pastiche and homage to Star Trek, Galaxy Quest is an inventive comedy film that sees the former cast of an old sci-fi show being scooped up by aliens who believe the televised fictional show is a documentary about a daring crew of explorers. Said aliens have constructed a replica of the starship Protector and want the group of actors to defend their people from the alien warlord Sarris and his reptilian race of conquerors.
Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver also star but once again Rickman steals the show with a wonderful performance as a former stage actor unable to find other work after his role as Dr. Lazarous made him a cult figure (a nod to Leonard Nimoy’s Spock). Rickman sends up his thespian image in a self-aware portrayal that includes catchphrases, bitterness and alien make-up, culminating in a wonderful scene that includes tragedy and the saying ‘”By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!”.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
A tale about Robin Hood starring Kevin Costner that is remembered for two reasons. The first is the theme song, ‘(Everything I do) I do it for you’, by Bryan Adams, which spent 16 weeks as the UK number One single and became one of the best-selling singles of all time, currently ranked 11th for worldwide sales.
The second most memorable thing from this historical adventure is, undoubtedly, Rickman’s performance. His deliciously despicable turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham elevated him above the rest of the cast and earned him a Bafta for a performance that remains the main reason to re-watch this generally average movie.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Spinning out of the seven Harry Potter books came eight hugely successful movies that boasts a plethora of acting greats: Dame Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman and Ralph Feinnes are just some of the names that spring to mind. The three leading youngsters of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all grew into their roles as they grew up on set and have since enjoyed further success outside the franchise.
Despite being surrounded by such talent Rickman still manages to shine in his role as Severus Snape, spending most of time under suspicion as an agent of the central villain Voldemort before the revelation that he was a double-agent acting out of long-lost love. Rickman’s combination of dry delivery, snarls and sneers brought the character from the books onto the big screen in a perfect translation of source material to movie adaptation. If you sneer the title character’s surname, ‘Potter’, you cannot help but think of Rickman as Snape, with his sour mentality and mesmerising, distinct voice.
Die Hard (1988)
I’ve left this movie to last for two reasons. First and foremost, I love Die Hard. It’s one of the ultimate action movies, combining memorable dialogue, action set pieces and a tight storyline that never lags. The film is pure entertainment.
The second reason is simply because Rickman’s Hans Gruber is part of a double-act with Bruce Willis’ John McClane, as opposed to being a member of an ensemble as found in the previous entries on this list. Yes, Alan Rickman stands out from the crowd in those films and yes, Die Hard has several strong supporting players (who can forget the beat cop Al, strong female-lead Holly and sleazy Ellis?) But at its core, Die Hard is about two men trying to outwit each other whilst the respective actors complement each other perfectly.
McClane is a blue collar worker running around barefoot over glass, wearing a dirty vest and bleeding from numerous cuts. Gruber sits in an air-conditioned office, surrounded by wealth and beauty, impeccably groomed and almost bored with his own villainous ways. This wonderful contrast, coupled with a strong script and fantastic performances, provides a live-action gun-toting chess game carried out between two memorable characters. Bruce Willis has starred as McClane in a further four Die Hard films but has never and will never face an opponent, nor a performance, the likes of which Alan Rickman provided.
Thank you, Alan Rickman.