Thursday 14th January 2016, Alan Rickman has died, aged 69, after his private battle with cancer. Immortal in presence and voice but unfortunately not in being, the world has had to say goodbye to another icon after the news of David Bowie’s passing earlier this week.
From his first film appearance in Die Hard (1988) opposite Bruce Willis as ‘Hans Gruber’, to his role as the naïve Harry, in Love, Actually (2003) to his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series (2001 – 2011), where he captivated children and adults alike globally, Alan Rickman was a truly timeless actor. Never getting constrained into one role or stereotype, he was equally comfortable as the iconic film villain, for example as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), as he was in theatre working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and as the noble Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995). His wide ranging career expanding over 40 years meant that he was equally beloved by all generations, a true icon.
Rickman was one of a few incredibly talented actors equally recognizable through his voice as through appearance. This uniquely rich and smooth tone led to him taking many voice acting roles including the Blue Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland (2010), Marvin in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) and Joe in Help! I’m a Fish/A Fish Tale (2000). Incredibly, his voice will be again heard later this year in the sequel to Alice when audiences will be graced with his talents in his role as the Blue Caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) for a second time.
As well as his roles in theatre, film and TV, as an actor, Alan Rickman also wrote and directed two films, A Little Chaos (2014) and The Winter Guest (1997). Both were praised especially for how unusually visually attractive they were, linking back to Rickman’s background in graphic design before he became an actor. Over the course of his career he has won 16 awards and had 29 further nominations, including winning a Golden Globe in 1997 for Rasputin (1996) and a BAFTA in 1992 for his role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
However, it is impossible to talk about Alan Rickman without talking about the franchise that cemented him into the hearts of the younger generation, and that was Harry Potter. There are very few people in our generation left now who can see the word “always” or page number 394 without remembering the words in his voice. Professor Severus Snape, in Rickman’s hands, took audiences on a journey from hate to pity to admiration, and he became the anti-hero of the Wizarding World. Fellow actors from the films James and Oliver Phelps described him as “a funny and engaging person” and “one of the nicest actors” they’ve ever met. Snape became one of those iconic presences in film so much so that the complexity of his character, in places overtook the plot of the books – Rickman took bitterness and loss and showed how they could torment and twist a man who was fundamentally good. The ten years Alan Rickman spent as Snape act as a huge testament to his acting abilities, alongside the rest of his varied and impressive career outside of the franchise.
There has been an outpouring of grief and respect for the actor, both as a man and as a talent, ranging from politicians to fellow actors to comedians to musicians. Gary Kemp tweeted that “Alan Rickman was not only an amazing, forensically good actor, but a lovely, genuine man to know.” J.K. Rowling described him as “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man” and Jeremy Corbyn added his respect in placing him as “one of the greatest actors of his generation”.
In 2011 Rickman said to the Hero Complex website about Harry Potter’s conclusion “Am I sad? The point about a great story is that it’s got a beginning, a middle and end”.
As devastated as the world is that Rickman has left us, the world will be reading, watching and remembering him for years to come. Always.
Images sourced from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Warner Bros., Alice in Wonderland, Walt Disney Studios, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Warner Bros. and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Warner Bros. respectively.