Oh my! Alan Rickman died earlier today. When I learned earlier this week that David Bowie had died, it made me feel a little old. But there wasn’t much in terms of emotional impact, despite the fact that there are at least three Bowie albums that I love: Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, and David Live. And I’m also a huge fan of the film Labyrinth, although not because of him. But my reaction to Alan Rickman’s death is different. It bothers me. I’m actually sad about it.
I discovered him the same place most people did, as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Despite being a cliche, it is still true that the most important element in a film like that is the villain. This is why the other Die Hard films are not as good (but at least Die Hard 2 had a really good plot). The truth is that Bruce Willis has never been very interesting on the screen. And Rickman added all the charisma that was otherwise lacking. I remember reading that someone on the staff was sending the production company reports indicting that Rickman was destroying the film. It just goes to prove William Goldman’s saying, “No one knows anything.”
As if to prove that wasn’t a fluke, Alan Rickman played the most evil and twisted Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. That was a film that was totally forgettable except for Rickman. It was just such a delight to watch. Check out this scene (which is not at all an especially good one for Rickman) and ask yourself, “How is it that Kevin Costner is a star?” This is the problem with Hollywood: being boring is a good thing. “I shall never fear my father’s sword.” It’s not a terrible line by itself, but Costner makes it as bad as it could possibly be.
I assume that Alan Rickman didn’t especially want to be a star. He was an actor. So he got to play a lot of different kinds of roles. One very early was Ed (the painter) in The January Man. It wasn’t a great film, but it was a fun one. And Rickman showed that he could hold his own on the weird front against Kevin Kline. He was wonderfully sad in, An Awfully Big Adventure. He managed to make Colonel Brandon just cool enough in Sense and Sensibility. And he played the wonderfully snobby, yet likable, Steven Spurrier in Bottle Shock. He was wonderful creepy as Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd. But of course most people will always remember him as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. I could go on, because there are other films of his I loved like, Truly, Madly, Deeply. Oh, and Galaxy Quest. Like I said: I could go on.
So I’m very sad that Alan Rickman has died. (And truly: God must hate humanity because Dick Cheney continues to live.) But I’m not “sobbing sad.” I didn’t know Alan Rickman. But the film industry will be all the poorer for his death. First Terry Pratchett. Now this. Is something going on in England? I don’t think I can take much more of this.
Goodnight, sweet prince! And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!