Alan Rickman 1946-2016
These days, 69 is no age at all and it’s certainly not the age to be in 2016 apparently as cancer claims yet another beloved performer. It feels much more shocking because, like Bowie, the illness was kept private and that discretion is something I have massive respect for the individuals, families and friends for. In the trashy age of Jenner-Kardashian-West no-holds-barred-anything-and-everything-for-publicity, there’s a towering dignity in keeping things private.
Given a choice I’d prefer not to write obituaries and eulogies. I never intended to write them at all when I started this blog. But as time has gone by and I’ve connected with so many new people through blogging, Twitter and Facebook who share my enthusiasm for movies, it’s nice to have a way to share things like this with like minded folks that’s not limited to 140 characters.
I was almost as shocked to discover that Rickman was 69 as I was to hear of his death. I would never have thought him that old – he had a kind of timeless quality about him that I was never really aware of him getting older. From the moment he exploded onto the big screen in his cinematic debut as Hans Gruber in 1988’s “Die Hard”, he became a firm favourite. His involvement in a project always meant no matter what else was going on, there would be someone and something worth watching.
Looking through his back catalogue, I’d say my top 5 favourite Alan Rickman performances are:
- Hans Gruber,”Die Hard” (1988)
- Alexander Dane, “Galaxy Quest” (1999)
- Serverus Snape, “Harry Potter” Series (2001-2011)
- The Metatron, “Dogma” (1999)
- The Sheriff Of Nottingham, “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves” (1991)
What all of these roles had in common was a wonderful, mercurial ambiguity. He was able to draw you in with his charm which concealed a ruthless dark side, meaning no matter how evil or good his characters were, there was always a sense they could switch allegiances in a heartbeat and no matter whether on the side of the Devils or the Angels, you were invariably (albeit sometimes secretly) rooting for him. It made him the perfect actor to play Serverus Snape in the “Harry Potter” films. With the benefit of hindsight, you can see Rickman playing the tragic backstory from the very beginning, even when under the vanilla popcorn direction of Chris Columbus. He was so good at walking that fine line between likeable good and hissable evil that even in a fluffy romantic comedy like “Love, Actually” he managed to provoke endless debates over whether his character had actually committed adultery or not., with passionate arguments both for and against infidelity.
The 2013 short film “Dust” (below), written and directed by Ben Ockrent and Jake Russell, showcases his abilities perfectly. There’s a sinister menace to the beginning of the film which, by the end, is transformed into something else and Rickman pulls it off flawlessly.
Maybe the sudden reveal of his illness and death was all part of his plan, taking a leaf out of his old pal, Hans’ book…
I hope he’s sitting on that beach right now. He’s earned it.