In Memoriam – Alan Rickman (1946-2016)

In 1988, a svelte, supposed eastern European, in an impeccable suit and the silkiest accent ever, announced his intentions to teach those at the Nakatomi Tower a lesson in real power. With the character of Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman was introduced to Hollywood and the world of American pop culture. Rickman, who passed away from cancer on January 14, 2016, went on to a fantastic film career that included sexless angels, enigmatic magic professors, Shakespearean aliens, eccentric hairdressers, and treacherous sheriffs.

Hearing of Rickman’s death on social media hit me hard. Perhaps, it was how Rickman chose downright little quirky films like “Blow Dry”, the British dark comedy about a hairdressing competition where he did have one of the coolest movie tattoos I’ve ever seen. Perhaps, it was my adoration for “Dogma” and Rickman’s portrayal of Metatron, the voice of God, in the fun little film shot in my hometown. Perhaps, it was his take on the sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. Or maybe it was his casting as Severus Snape, a character who has affected millions of people worldwide in the popular movie franchise “Harry Potter.”

This morning when I heard the news I went to tell my 10-year-old, who coincidentally has been voraciously reading “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” this week. After I told her, she paused for several seconds and told me that it had to happen. I was taken aback by her response at first, but then I realized for an entire generation of people Alan Rickman and Snape are synonymous. Claire continued as she explained that the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwart’s was cursed, and since Snape was the new DADA professor something bad was bound to happen. I hugged her and quietly went to shower where she couldn’t see my tears fall.

I’m not sure exactly why this death, among other celebrity deaths, hit me so hard. The last film of his I saw was “Die Hard”. I’ve taken to watching weird “Christmas” movies on Christmas Eve and serendipitously chose “Die Hard” last month. Hans Gruber was the perfect nonscripted enemy and an awesome foil to Bruce Willis’ John McLane. Everything about that film was perfectly awesome, from Rickman’s sinister sneer to his accent. That accent. Damn.

While reading his obit in the The Telegraph this morning, I came across an anecdote about his portrayal of Valmont in “Dangerous Liaison” on stage (the role that led directly to him being cast as Gruber in his first film role). Rickman’s co-star, Lindsay Duncan, famously observed after his performance that “a lot of people left the theatre wanting to have sex and most them wanted to have it with Alan Rickman.”

While Rickman’s body of work is much more than his accent, that theatre performance and subsequent inaugural film role skyrocketed Rickman to international fame – a fame that never went to his head as he continued to take thoughtful roles that demonstrated his range. Rickman was a top-notch actor who treated his peers as equals, even if they were younger like Daniel Radcliffe. The two first met while filming “Harry Potter.”

“Working with him [Rickman] at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career,” Radcliffe posted to Google Plus when hearing of his mentor’s death.

Kevin Smith, Rickman’s Dogma director, also remembered him. “Thank you for lending a hack like me your artistry and your credibility, Alan. You were never Snape to me as much as you were the adult Harry Potter himself: a bonafide wizard who could conjure absolute magic using merely words.”

Today, cancer took our villain, our professor, our friend, as Alan Rickman, the quirky sexless angel, beats his wings towards the heavens above. He will be dearly missed this spring when we hear his voice in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (reprising his completed role as the Blue Caterpillar) but we have an awesome body of work that will live on through those performances and memories.