Kurland On Film: Remembering Alan Rickman 1946 -2016
By Scott Kurland
Why is 2016 starting off on such a low note? We’re not even two weeks in and we’ve already lost David Bowie and Lemmy Kimister to cancer; now we lose another. There’s only a small handful of actors who can play villains you root for. It’s a list that includes Sir Ian McKellan, David Tenant, Jeremy Irons and, finally, Sir Alan Rickman. Sadly, Alan Rickman died yesterday morning January 14th, 2016 after a long battle with cancer. I’m not trying to be cheeky or cute when I say we’re losing all of our British icons to this debilitating disease. This loss is just as hard as Bowie. Rickman was the first villain I ever saw on screen, and I was in awe of this well spoken and articulate man.
When I was eight years old, I saw the TV version of “Die Hard” on TBS. Of course the TBS version of“Die Hard” had replaced all the swears with shoot, fudge, or mother father. Naturally, “Yippee Ki Yay Mother Father” became my favorite thing about this version. When Rickman stepped out of the elevator in that sharp suit and beard, I knew my eight year old brain was processing something great. Rickman was one of the few actors who could turn garbage into gold. Speaking of garbage, one film comes to mind in particular: “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”. It’s not a great film by any means, but Rickman’s screen time as The Sheriff of Nottingham is used wisely. He was devilish, evil, and incredibly charming….even in that ending scene where his lip is almost bitten off. Rickman has saved many movies that, by all intents and purposes, were less than worthy of him
We all remember Rickman for two roles; the first I already mentioned: Hans Gruber. The other iconic role was Professor Severus Snape, or, as we learned of his true identity…”The Half Blood Prince”. Rickman made Snape ambiguous, sinister and calculating. Yet when the true motives behind his actions were finally revealed in “Deathly Hallows Part II,” you couldn’t help but love him. In the hands of any other actor, Snape would either be too transparent or too overbearing. Rickman was that perfect combination of mysterious and wounded that made Severus Snape one of the greatest characters to ever transition from page to screen. Snape will be the role that every young child will remember as Rickman’s, though many of this generations adults will remember him as Hans Gruber.
In my opinion, the two roles that really made Rickman shine, were “Galaxy Quest” and “Dogma”. In “Galaxy Quest,” Rickman was playing a caricature of all those trained Shakespearean actors that moved to America and got stuck doing syndicated Science-Fiction TV shows. It’s never said whether or not he’s supposed to be a Patrick Stewart type, but it is heavily implied. It could also be a jab at Sir Alec Guinness who hated every minute of playing Obi-Wan Kenobi. As Sir Alexander Dane, Rickman gives (in my opinion) one of the best performances of his career. Here’s an actor stuck on a real spaceship, all because he’s tired of the series lead getting all the glory. Eventually though, he becomes a pretty great general in the process. What I love so much about Rickman in this film is that you never see his character without his fake alien head on. This was all because Rickman thought it would be a nice little easter egg for the audience to discover.
“Dogma” is another great film. Rickman’s Metatron has and will always be my favorite character. Not only does he play an angel in the film, BUT HE’S THE VOICE OF GOD, a detail that is so believable because of his dark velvety British accent. If there was an Angel that spoke for God, it would sound like Rickman. Rickman proved something with “Dogma” that many people didn’t know; Alan Rickman is really, really funny. Rickman gives some of the best lines in the film. There’s an ongoing joke that Metatron really cares about his appearance and what he’s wearing but, alas, his clothes keep getting stained.
Rickman sells the hell out of this joke. It begins with him appearing as the voice of God on fire in Bethany’s (Linda Fiorentino) apartment, and she sprays him with a fire extinguisher asking “Who are you?” One of Rickman’s first lines in response to this always makes me chuckle. “SWEET JESUS! DID YOU HAVE TO USE THE WHOLE CAN?” There’s a sincerity to Metatron that Rickman brings. For instance, when he talks about God being lonely but funny, it always hits me in the feels. And yet, whenever Smith shows Rickman’s sensitive side, he always counters that moment with a bit of comedy. In the end of the film a head explodes all over Metatron and he scream, “IT NEVER ENDS!!!” Whenever I think of any Rickman film, this character, my favorite character, is what I think of first….followed by Hans Gruber of course.
Alan Rickman was one of the worlds greatest actors and, from all the stories I’ve heard, he was also a great human being. Daniel Radcliffe frequently speaks of Rickman’s warmth, sensitivity and how he would always fly anywhere to see Radcliffe perform; be it in a play or in a movie. How can you not admire or love a man like this? Rickman left us with some of the most wonderful and engaging performances an actor could impart on the world. Whether he was breaking your heart in “Love, Actually”, making you laugh in “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, or deducting points from Gryffindor; chances are your eyes were fixated on Rickman. As with the death of David Bowie, the world becomes a little sadder and darker with the loss of Alan Rickman. I’m going to end this obituary with one of my favorite quotes and one of Rickman’s best deliveries in a film:
“Say you're the Metatron, people stare at you blankly. Mention something from a Charlton Heston movie and suddenly everyone's a theology scholar! May I continue uninterrupted?”
Yes you may oh great Rickman, you may continue on forever. By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged!
Rest well good sir.