You are here
Home > FEATURED > Alan Rickman, 1946-2016

Alan Rickman, 1946-2016

Article by: Anthony Florez


You can tell a lot about a celebrity by the first thought that comes to mind when they pass away. For me, when Leonard passed I thought, “Well…” As in, well, you can’t have a better run than that man and it made that terrible sense that life and death makes. With Lemmy it was, “….how?” As in, how in the hell was that guy still alive to begin with? And what could have possibly killed him? All due respect, of course, but I’d read years ago about his consumption so my hair was not exactly blown back. And with David Bowie it was closer to, “…what?!”. As in, what?….that can’t be right. Because he is immortal, everyone knows that. What I think really happened is that the voting finally came in and whatever space aliens that keep watch over us were like, “Okay, it’s official. He’s the coolest and most interesting one down there by a long shot.” And then they beamed him up to party or whatever it is that they do when they want to have a good time.

But with Alan Rickman my only thought was, “No.” His passing makes the least sense at all. It’s unfair. Not right. Had to be a mistake. But it wasn’t and, bizarrely, the day carried on as it always does and anyone who fell in love with his work were left in shock. The odd thing about the man and his career is that he specialized in inhabiting loathsome, often villainous characters. He played droll and depressing as well as effete and condescending. Egomaniacal and tragic. As an audience we had every right to hate each and every one of his most iconic characters but something amazing happens when an actor as gifted as this man is on screen. You never did. It’s hard to explain how infinitely watchable the man was and how powerful his voice could be, even when his characters were at their most cruel or sadistic. Especially, when they were cruel or sadistic. You could not look away, in fact, you only wanted more and that, I think, was his true talent. But again, his passing made no sense to me and it still doesn’t. He was a presence that I think we assumed would always be around, looming confidently on the screen, viciously judging someone in that way that Oh-So-British way, some snide, ego devastating comment quietly loaded for the perfect moment. No, I am not okay with this. So let’s talk about it.


Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a weird film. Some would say more like “terrible” but you had to have been there. It’s a film that only could have been made in the early 90s when studios were taking a lot of chances while not knowing what they were doing so much. As a child I loved it in the way that children often have bad judgement and make terrible decisions but I still have a great affection for its performances. However, it only occurred to me as an adult that Costner made absolutely zero effort at an English accent which is odd in a film about an English folk hero. Morgan Freeman is a black man portraying an Arab. And, the strangest part, Alan Rickman is in it. He’s brilliant and arch, portraying the evil Sheriff of Nottingham with so much enthusiasm that his scenes feel borrowed from a different, better film. Apparently, he turned this movie down twice before he was told he would have carte blanche in portraying the character and as much as I love the man’s work, it definitely shows. Rickman’s Sheriff makes William Shatner seem like a subtle, even dull thespian but it’s his scenery chewing that makes this ridiculous movie so entertaining. I recommend visiting it one more time for nostalgia’s sake but don’t, and I really mean this, don’t do it sober. Just don’t.

Here’s a fun fact: I enthusiastically ate this cereal as a child. I remember it being dry, sweet, and yes, undeniably dick-shaped.


What hasn’t already been said about Die Hard, other than they really really need to stop making sequels to it. As the villain in this film I don’t remember the character making an enormous impact right away, more like it became legendary over time. Hans Gruber, I’d bet dollars to pesos, has been in the screenplay notes of more action films in the last three decades since than we’ll ever be aware of and with good reason. The confidence, the poise, and most importantly in my opinion, was the intelligence of the character. The bad guys in the 80s were not, by and large, imaginative or three-dimensional. And they certainly weren’t charming. Rickman was all those things before he got out of bed in the morning and my favorite part of Die Hard, is when McClane and Gruber cross paths. Hans slips into the innocent bystander role and the suspense that builds between them is thrilling as any action set in the whole film.


I grew up a Kevin Smith fan before I was really a film fan and as much as I love the guy on a personal level his films are all across the board quality-wise. Lately, I blame Seth Rogen for turning him into a pothead on the set of Zach and Miri Make a Porno but when the View Askewniverse was still going strong Smith had real indie cred to throw around. The cast of Dogma would be nightmare to try and assemble in 2016, it’s an impressive group and, when film became less of a past time and more of a hobby, I realized what an anomaly Rickman is in this flick. It speaks to his range and courage as an actor to star in a religious/fantasy comedy from the man who, at that point, was only Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. It was a hell of a change in tone by a classically trained stage actor and speaks to something that I am only aware of about the man via hearsay and gossip: his sense of humor. I don’t know a finer quality in a successful professional with his gift of gravitas but by all accounts Rickman was also as humble as he was scary. Which is to say, tremendously. And who says he was allowed to be so funny on top of it? Alan Rickman says, that’s who. If you have not seen Galaxy Quest, you’ll find another departure in style, another risk taken by an actor that could have stayed in his comfort zone all the way to the bank and back. But he did not.


Alan Rickman starred in more than a few films in the middle period of his career and yet another remarkable thing about the man, and a handful of gifted actors, is when parts started being written with him in mind. He created and defined an archetype, like a Christopher Walken or an Al Pacino, but much more quietly and without the caricature. And the one that he is most famous for and will be defined by is, of course, Severus Snape. JK Rowling admits to having him in mind writing the books and there has not been a more perfect piece of casting in pop culture history. I… (ahem, keep it together, Florez, you knew this part was coming), while looking up appropriate gifs and links to keep this piece fun and upbeat in light of the subject matter I had to navigate many images and memories that I’d rather not have navigated. “Lily? After all this time?”, and then I lost my shit. I showed up to the Harry Potter Universe way after the films had finished so when I started reading the books I would throw things on Facebook like, “Finally reading the Potter books. Apparently, this kid is some sort of wizard,” and then I’d giggle to myself about my coy humor. And, just like that time I drank a bottle of wine while watching Les Miserable, a thing I started out teasing or making fun of became something I got so caught up in I wept like a baby throughout. And whenever Russell Crowe sang.


There is some justified debate as to whether or not Snape was really the hidden hero of the series. An argument can be made for both sides. But this is the genius of both the character and Alan’s interpretation of it. The Defense Against The Dark Arts Professor and occasional Death Eater was many things, many-layered, vile and thoroughly damaged but ultimately his redemption arc is similar to the actor and his incredible career. On the surface he was one thing, often terrifying or brooding or aloof and condescending but in reality so much more. Kinder and more thoughtful than most of us will ever really know. Incredibly skilled and affecting. And, until this morning, completely and utterly taken for granted. This is not because he wasn’t appreciated but because we, I, assumed his….spirit?…his force of will and presence were unconquerable. That he would outlive us all and when Death came knocking he would tell that low thing to kindly get bent with perfect inflection, with that wonderful voice you can hear in your head right now.


I’m trying to figure out if I feel better after talking about it. The answer, to be honest, is that I do not. It’s still too soon, still far too fresh, and it is still, for all intents and purposes, bullshit. Denial is, after all, the first of the five stages of grief. I cannot for a second claim to have known the man well enough to go through each one over the coming weeks but I know acceptance is a long way off. It’s an unpleasant thing having to keep hitting backspace to correct every ‘he is’ with ‘he was’, it’s warying. He is a great gift and one of the finest actors of this generation and more than that, by all accounts, a genuinely good man. To me, he’ll always be Professor Snape who was appreciated for his efforts, sacrifice, and genius posthumously. In some damnable irony, he will be mourned and remembered, yes, but for all the vitriol and dourness he brought into the world through his craft, Alan Rickman will also be what he has truly deserved all along. Celebrated.


Anthony Florez
Currently residing in Austin, Texas, Anthony Florez enjoys unironically blogging about film, television, and food. An eight year veteran of the gaming industry, he intends to one day fulfill his dream of training his Black Lab to not only fetch a beer, but also to determine affordable labels without coming off like a hipster. He enjoys most genres of film with the exception of horror, can recall the best Jim and Pam episodes of The Office from memory, and isn’t bothered at all when Netflix suggests Bridget Jones’s Diary based on his viewing habits.

2 thoughts on “Alan Rickman, 1946-2016

Comments are closed.