Alan Rickman, an actor beloved for his technical prowess as much for his incredible human warmth and sense of humour, has tragically passed away from cancer. He was 69.
To try and document and summarise a career like Rickman’s using just words feels almost cheap; almost meaningless, for the body of work he leaves behind speaks more than words ever could, and the thought of what more he could have given the world is almost unbearably sad.
Born on 21st February 1946 to a working class family (a rarer and rarer thing in the acting profession these days), Rickman’s dramatic career had a relatively slow start, but — like an almighty space rocket taking its time to power up — once it took off, it cleared the atmosphere and created a blinding flash seen round the world. Laying the groundwork and honing his chops in English theatre and television work, he earned a Tony award nomination when the version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses he was working on went to Broadway in 1987.
But his first movie role would not come in until 1988. At the age of 41, Rickman appeared in his debut big screen role, and the pantheon of the great movie villains of all time would never be the same again. Hans Gruber was the role of a lifetime, and it is impossible to imagine a reality or universe where Alan Rickman isn’t the one masterminding the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza. Even in a movie as perfect as Die Hard, a pivotal role like Hans Gruber could have been miscast. It took Alan Rickman to bring his incredible talent and make Hans menacing, intelligent, funny — and human. While terrorising Bruce Willis in a skyscraper. As action movie fans — hell, as movie fans in general — we owe Mr Rickman a huge debt.
Needless to say after Die Hard, his career exploded, and over the years we were blessed with his distinctive voice, presence and charisma, and commitment to the craft in roles including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense and Sensibility, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy .
And, of course, to a generation of people around the world, Mr Rickman will always and forever be Severus Snape. Like Hans Gruber, this is a role now tied so absolutely to one man’s portrayal that it would take a computer orders of magnitude times more powerful than any currently in existence to even contemplate a thought experiment where the two are not inextricably tied together.
An immensely talented performer, as well as a charitable, generous soul; quick to laugh, and never swept up in the potential madness of his profession, Alan Rickman gave movie lovers gift after gift after gift and never asked for anything in return. Goodnight Hans; goodnight Severus; goodnight Mr Rickman. Thank you, and may you rest in peace.