I know I’m late in posting this, but I felt I needed to pay tribute to the great Alan Rickman, who passed away on January 14th after a brief battle with cancer.
Mr. Rickman will forever be remembered for two roles that each embedded him firmly in the public conscience as the essence of sinister sophistication. The first, and long his signature role, was Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Gruber was brilliantly innovative character: suave, intelligent, and cultured, but at the same time startlingly ruthless and sociopathic. He was the cool evil genius to Bruce Willis’s improvisational John McClain, and a large part of that film’s success comes from watching these two smart, dangerous adversaries trying to outwit one another. Rickman’s arrogant and ironical delivery made Gruber often hilarious as well as intimidating. He could communicate what Gruber was thinking and elicit a laugh with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.
The other role was, of course, Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. I must admit, I’m not a fan of those films. I love the books, but the films I find to be, in Snape’s own words, ‘mediocre in the extreme.’ That being said, perhaps the best part of those films is Alan Rickman’s performance as Snape. He is absolutely ideal for the role, and seems to have walked right out of the pages. Reading the books, I picture Rickman as Snape. Snape is probably the most interesting and well-developed character in the story, and Rickman captures that in a simply brilliant performance.
In addition to these roles, Alan Rickman also gave a hilarious and surprisingly moving turn in the sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest (a wonderful film, by the way) as a classically trained actor who wonders how he ended up being best known for playing an alien on a cheesy TV show. The role not only parodied the late Leonard Nimoy (a classically trained actor most famous for playing an alien on a cheesy TV show) but also Rickman himself, a classically trained actor then best known for playing a bad guy in an action movie.
Apparently, Alan Rickman much preferred the stage to films, and often turned down film roles in order to devote more time to his ‘first love.’ However, he doesn’t seem to have resented his pop-culture fame. On the contrary:
Alas, he didn’t make it to 80. Alan Rickman was one of the great talents of his generation. Even when he ended up in bad films, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, he always managed to entertain. Those of us who grew up laughing and cringing at his many roles will miss him.
Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. Forgive him his trespasses and may he rest in peace.