It makes me sad to have to write this piece. All death is sad, of course, but one so unexpected of one so beloved by many is especially so. Alan Rickman portrayed the villains we loved and loved to hate. He left his mark in our hearts with his withering gazes and dry scathing British humor. He will be greatly missed by all of us at Geekade.
Hans Gruber is where he first captured our hearts with villany. For some, it’s not Christmas until we see him plummet out of a window on the 30th story of Nakatomi Plaza. He made Die Hard as great as it was. Sure Bruce Willis made it fun and John McTiernan made it super-explodey, but you can’t have a heist movie without a thief and as Gruber himself said “I am an exceptional thief!” You certainly were, sir.
Not long after, Rickman cemented his place in the Hollywood Walk of Infamy (which is a thing I made up) portraying one of the most famous villains in all of fiction, Sherrif George of Nottingham. Look, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was not the greatest film of all time. In fact, it was pretty cornball. But Rickman rolled with that spirit and really sold such threats as “I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” In that film, he is the epitome of a man on a mission surrounded by incompetent morons and his seething rage over the lack of good available help makes him eminently watchable.
You want romance? Look no further than Rickman’s portrayal of the heroic Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. The love in his eyes and the honor in his deeds won the heart of Marianne Dashwood after coming to the aid of her family time and time again despite her initial rejection of him. Rickman made Brandon a proud and generous figure, rather than a pathetic one. Granted, it was Jane Austen’s writing that made him such an admirable character, but Rickman was well-suited to the task of bringing him to life in a way that made us believe a young Kate Winslet could fall for him.
He was far less lovable, but no less-suited to the role of Harry in Love, Actually. Here he was a bad and unlikeable character, proving his versatility, in being able to play both Harry and Brandon so believably. Bonus points for his frank and humorous confrontation with Laura Linney’s Sarah and the gift-wrap scene with Rowan Atkinson.
He also did comedy, appearing in a few cult classics that live large in geek fandom. In Dogma, he was the sarcastic, pragmatic voice of God, called to Earth to help the last living relative of Jesus Christ and two bumbling stoners prevent the apocalypse. Once again, he is surrounded by idiots, but this time he is on the side of good, giving us all the more cause to root for him. In Galaxy Quest, he plays a beleaguered British actor, pigeonholed by his role as an alien in a popular sci-fi show who finally gets his moment in the spotlight when the cast is abducted by actual aliens. By Grapthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged, good sir.
And at last, there is his most famous role, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. You may call them kids movies or silly fantasy stories, but these movies meant a lot to a lot of people and Rickman was right at the heart of them. There is the obvious villainy of the character. On the surface, no one in the Potter-verse is more hateable than the professor who most opposes the heroic Harry. But as we learn more about the character, we get to see him as a romantic figure as well, who fell for Harry’s beautiful mother and protected Harry at all costs out of that love, despite the pain of her rejection. And although Snape was particularly humorless, his performance afforded many opportunities for comedy at his expense and in reaction to his character. Snape is one of the most important figures in one of the most widely-loved fantasy franchises in recent history and he is a role Rickman was born to play. The films simply would not have been the same without him.
Of course these are only some of his many varied and wonderful roles. Though cut tragically short, his was a career full of great roles, securing him a place in all our hearts. It’s hard to fathom that we will not see another Alan Rickman movie and we’re all sadder today because of it. We hope his family can find some peace and his fans can find some comfort in rewatching some of the best moments in the career of a great actor. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman.