January 29, 2016 Alan Rickman – Always A Unique Character
When it comes to distinct and captivating voices, very few can compare to that of Alan Rickman. The rich and intense bass-baritone never fails to move audiences and send chills while pronouncing words precisely and slowly. It was this voice, among other great attributes, that made Alan Rickman a well-respected and sought after actor that millions of fans adore. Born on February 21, 1946 in Acton, London, Rickman was raised in a working class family with three siblings. Sadly, he passed from pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016 at the age of sixty-nine. Fans and fellow actors seemed to be in disbelief that the world lost such an amazing soul, especially due to the fact that he kept the nature of his illness somewhat hidden. However, his legacy will live on within the many iconic roles he has portrayed.
Rickman’s upbringing was far from perfect when his father, a factory worker, passed away when Rickman was only eight years old. His mother, a housewife, was left to raise the children and only remarried for a few years. When Rickman was nineteen, he met and fell in love with eighteen year old Rima Horton. Although they remained together until his death, they only just married in 2012. The couple never had children.
While Rickman is a natural performer, he began his working career as a graphic designer for a local newspaper after attending Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. After a few years in the business, he quit to pursue an acting career and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for two years. He performed with theater groups, including Royal Shakespeare Company, and landed his first big break as the male lead in 1985’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Howard Davies. The play went to Broadway two years later, with Rickman reprising his role as the manipulative and seductive Vicomte de Valmont, which earned him a Tony Award nomination.
It was during this Broadway production that Producer Joel Silver and Director John McTiernan discovered the amazing talent of Rickman. He was soon cast in his first big screen role in 1988’s ultimate Action film, Die Hard. Playing the villainous Hans Gruber to Bruce Willis’ heroic John McClane, the film showcased his range of dialect and charismatic screen presence. Almost three decades later, Hans Gruber is still considered one of the best villains in film history. His death scene, in which he fell off the Nakatomi Plaza, is still unforgettable and has been imitated many times.
Just a few years later, Rickman would portray yet another classic villain in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham. The film was number two in the box office in 1991 and featured a strong cast, including Kevin Costner, Christian Slater, and Morgan Freeman. Rickman was very well-received as the Sheriff of Nottingham, earning him a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
The awards continued to roll in after Rickman portrayed Grigori Rasputin in the biographical television film Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996). The film tells the story of Rasputin’s time as a mystic and healer for Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, and heir to the Russian throne. Rickman’s powerful performance was acknowledged with a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie, and Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film. Needless to say, the film earned him some well-deserved admiration from critics, Hollywood and viewers alike.
Worried that he would be typecast as a villain, Rickman began seeking other opportunities. He starred as Colonel Brandon in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1995), with the Academy Award winning screenplay by Emma Thompson. Colonel Brandon is a long time bachelor seeking the love of Marianne Dashwood, played by the beautiful Kate Winslet. Although he did not personally win any awards for the film, he was nominated for a SAG and BAFTA.
One of his next big screen performances was something quite different for the classically trained actor as he played the angel Metatron in Kevin Smith’s Dogma (1999). Co-stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are fallen angels seeking a way back into Heaven. Although the subject matter was a bit controversial for some, the movie was a surprise box office hit and critical success. It earned Rickman a nomination for a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor. Also released in 1999 was the Sci-Fi comedy Galaxy Quest. This satirical look into die-hard fandoms, such as Star Trek, followed a washed up cast from a mock television show called Galaxy Quest. Rickman, playing an alien scientist named Alexander Dane, starred alongside Tim Allen, Tony Shalhoub, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell and Daryl Mitchell. The group discovers that their show has been seen by a distant alien race, who believe Galaxy Quest is real and are historical archives. It has been named one of the funniest movies made and Rickman was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In 2001, Rickman landed yet another soon-to-be iconic role as the intimidating Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Dressed all in black with hair to match and a scowl on his face, Snape was feared by the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although his loyalties seemed to lie with the dark forces, his character proved to be one of the most complex throughout the entire series. Snape rarely showed his emotions beyond anger, aggravation, and sarcasm.
He had many heartbreaking moments at the end, including killing his longtime confidant Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). After being murdered by Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, viewers realized that Snape was a good man and one of the most important characters in the entire series. Although it seemed that Snape would be remembered as a great villain, he will actually be remembered as a beloved hero. Rickman proved to be the perfect embodiment of Snape and will always be cherished for that role.
Rickman kept extremely busy between the eight Harry Potter movies, getting cast in the wildly successful Love Actually (2003), Sci-Fi classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Snow Cake (2006), Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), and Alice in Wonderland (2010). Before his death, Rickman reprised his role as Blue Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Alice through the Looking Glass. The film is set to be released in May 2016. Another film that is yet to be released is Eye in the Sky, co-starring Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul. The movie will hit theaters in March 2016.
Throughout his life and career, Alan Rickman has been a true inspiration and the subject of admiration for many worldwide. His passing sent shockwaves and had fans coming together on social media and, of course, Platform 9¾ at London King’s Cross railway station to pay tribute. There is no doubt that Alan Rickman will be loved and appreciated for decades to come…or, always.