Saturday, 14 January 2017

'If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work' - Alan Rickman Remembered

A man who seemed to gain a reputation for playing villains that we all love to hate, there was much more to Alan Rickman than being good at being bad.  It has been one year to the day since the passing of this great British actor who died 14th January 2016 at the age of 69 following a short battle with cancer.  I remember being at work when one of my colleagues emailed me to say he had died and I remember reading it with a kind of disbelief because how could someone I had admired as an actor for many years suddenly no longer be around to make any more films.

Alan Rickman was a very accomplished stage actor but as this is my personal tribute, it is how I remember him as a film actor that I will be talking about.  Film fans of many different genres will remember him as he covered a wide range of roles, some villains, but others were good guys.  His first big film role came as the delightful Hans Gruber in Die Hard.  I mean, who even wants Bruce Willis to win when you have Alan taunting him? Not me! I don’t even like Bruce Willis.  However, the first film I saw him in was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the deliciously evil Sheriff of Nottingham and I loved him in it.  

Putting aside the dodgy accents from the other cast members (yes Kevin Costner I mean you), the Sheriff was perfectly British, his quips about calling off Christmas, cutting hearts out with a spoon and just his general flamboyant flouncing around was perfectly played by Rickman, so much so that most of the deleted scenes on the DVD Special Edition were his. Rumour has it Costner felt Rickman acted him off the screen (and he did).

My signature from when I roleplayed Snape

Despite being so good at bad guy roles, Rickman also took on other types of roles such as Sci-Fi (Galaxy Quest), romantic (Sense and Sensibility), comedy (Love Actually) and musical (Sweeney Todd).  He did voice work as well such as the lesser known Help I’m A Fish and the more well-known Alice in Wonderland and the sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass as the Blue Caterpillar Absolem, his final role.  He had a voice that you could recognise without even being told who it was and he also had this wonderful talent to able to make one sentence last for half an hour. It was a delight to watch and hear.

It was in his best-loved role for me that this talent showed itself best.  He delighted and terrorised in equal measure children and adults alike as the mean yet misunderstood Potions Master Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series of films.   He was one of only thirteen actors or actresses that appeared in all eight of the film adaptations.  So pivotal was his role that he was let into a much-guarded secret by JK Rowling herself (that Snape had loved Lily, Harry’s mother, since childhood) as she trusted him with the information to enhance his performance.  It is in this role that I will remember him most fondly and I will always be grateful that all eight films were released before his sad death as I could never imagine anyone else playing that role to such perfection. Snape will forever be Alan Rickman and Alan Rickman will be forever Snape.

I lament the fact that I will never see him in anything new but rejoice in his legacy of the wonderful films that remain with us.