Remembering Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman in his most famous recent role: "Harry Potter's" Potions Master, Severus Snape. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
Alan Rickman in his most famous recent role: "Harry Potter's" Potions Master, Severus Snape. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Most of you have probably already heard the heart-breaking news that Alan Rickman passed away today at the age of 69. Reports state that the British actor had been battling cancer. He is survived by his partner of 50 years, Rima Horton. The two married in a private ceremony in 2012.

Anyone who watched Mr. Rickman perform knew the depth and power of his talent. He was an accomplished stage and screen actor who was recognized with nominations for his work in theatre, TV and film. His honors included a BAFTA for his villainous role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for portraying the infamous spiritual healer and Russian political advisor in the TV movie Rasputin. For his most recognized role as the misunderstood and ultimately selfless Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, Alan earned the devotion of a generation and a People’s Choice and MTV Movie award to boot.

Obviously Rickman was hailed for his talent at playing baddies of varying degrees. Who can forget Hans Gruber from Die Hard or even the husband who cheated on Emma Thompson and made her sob in Love Actually? Despite this, many of Alan’s fans (aka Rickmaniacs) will tell you their preferred performances are his more romantic ones – Jamie, the ghost lover in Truly Madly Deeply and, of course, my favorite (and Lacy’s) the chivalrous and smitten Col. Brandon from Sense and Sensibility.  In fact so popular was he as an object of adoration, he won the very first Anglo Fan Favorites Tournament sponsored by BBC America’s Anglophenia blog.

With all the sadness and loss this past week has brought, I thought I’d leave you with a list of some of Mr. Rickman’s more comic and perhaps lesser known work. (Although face it. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen just about everything he’s done.)

Snow Cake is an indie dramedy about Alex (Rickman), a brooding and eccentric drifter travelling through Canada. An uncharacteristically generous act gets him caught up in a complicated co-dependent situation with an autistic woman named Linda (Sigourney Weaver). Linda’s neighbor Maggie (Carrie-Ann Moss) attempts to help and ends up getting romantically involved with Alex as well as drawing out a painful secret. 

The comedy in this is more situational and quirky than laugh out loud funny. I remember watching this film on DVD years ago and having it stick with me for quite some time, particularly the interactions between Weaver and Rickman. 

Blow Dry is an underdog comedy about a hairdressing competition. Rickman plays Phil Allen, a small town barber who used to be a big deal in the hair styling world. That was until his wife Shelly (Natasha Richardson) left him for their show model Sandra (Rachel Griffiths). Bitter and resolute, Phil refuses to join his ex and her girlfriend in the upcoming national championships and strongly cautions their son Brian (Josh Hartnett) to stay away as well. That is until they learn why Shelly wants to reunite her family one last time…

I highly recommend this feel-good film. The cast is great and the story is funny, uplifting and bittersweet all at once. A good combo for the way we’re collectively feeling right about now.

Set in the early 1970’s and based loosely on true events; Bottle Shock tells the story of sommelier Steven Spurrier (Rickman) who tries to rescue his Paris wine shop from ruin by hosting a blind taste test. His plan is to pit French wines against quality wines coming out of California. As he makes his way around the Napa Valley, Steven comes upon struggling vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) who refuses to participate in the competition which he believes is a stunt intended to embarrass New World wine makers. Jim’s son Bo (Chris Pine) sneaks Spurrier some bottles of Chardonnay and the history of wine is changed forever.

Rickman plays a great fish-out-of-water character who expresses resigned contempt with aplomb. Most reviewers said he was a scene stealer every time he appeared on screen.

Controversial even before its release, Dogma is a religious satire about a pair of renegade angels (played by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) who plan to exploit a purported loophole in Catholic dogma to return to Heaven after being cast out by God. Unfortunately since creation rests on the belief that God is infallible, their success would turn this assumption on its head and destroy all of existence. In order to prevent this destruction, Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino) who is apparently the last heir of Jesus, is dispatched by Metatron – Voice of God - to stop them. And who is the Voice of God, you may ask?

Rickman doing a working class, Cockneyish accent is worth the price of admission on this movie.  The big angel wings are just the icing on the cake.

I wanted to end with Galaxy Quest because we get to see Rickman playing an actor, albeit an unfulfilled one. In this affectionate parody of Star Trek and its fans, we find the washed-up cast of a long cancelled space adventure series appearing at a Galaxy Quest convention. Self-absorbed actor Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) who played the captain in the show is the only one still excited about these appearances. Approached by a group calling themselves the Thermians, Nesmith assumes them to be typical nerdy fans in alien garb.  Alas these beings have a very real problem and only Jason and his crew can help them…

In my opinion, Rickman’s Alexander Dane (aka Dr. Lazarus) is the comic highlight of an already humorous film. He oozes with self-distain for what his career has become. But he gets to be a hero in the end which would be a great ego boost for anyone.

Of the films listed above, you can find Galaxy Quest, Bottle Shock and Blow Dry on Netflix and I believe they can be streamed on Amazon as well. The other two, Snow Cake and Dogma, you’ll have to track down on DVD I’m afraid.

And please don’t forget to share your memories and favorite roles of Alan Rickman with us in the comments section. He will be greatly missed, but thanks to his amazing body of work, never forgotten.