I wasn’t sure if I would write this post this evening, even though truthfully, I knew this was the surrender for me. There was another birthday that I took note of today, and while he is not a family member, I’ve thought a great deal about his life nonetheless. He was born on this date, in 1946, and passed away last month, on January 14, after a short battle with cancer.
I first took notice of Alan Rickman in 1991, when I watched, delighted, as he brought the Sheriff of Nottingham to life on the big screen in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Being a fan of Kevin Costner, I initially viewed the film because it featured him in the role of Robin Hood. I returned to watch it, again and again, because of Rickman.
Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
I was unfamiliar with this British actor with the distinctive double bass voice. However, I quickly remedied that. I watched him again as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and as Elliot Marston in Quigley Down Under. The time being way before the days of Googling someone to find a wealth of information, I learned about Alan by watching his films as they released, reading interviews or catching him on a late night show for a few minutes.
I couldn’t explain the connection I felt to Alan Rickman then, and I still can’t to this day. It’s enough to acknowledge that there is one. His life and work resonate with me on a deep level. And the more I learn about him, the more I find to appreciate about him.
Alan has an impressive, and varied, body of work, from stage to film to short indie pieces, from actor to director to Tango dancer in a music video. Often cited as one of the best villain actors in the industry, he was actually so much more than that. He did excell at portraying the brooding bad guy, as evidenced by his early films. But he brought depth to characters such as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility and could elicit laughter in films such as Galaxy Quest.
He was also known for taking his work seriously, even while not taking himself thus, and for immersing himself in the roles. I discovered that he often got to know his character so well that he gave valuable input to the director concerning how the role should be played. For the complex Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, Alan came up with the character’s wardrobe. The long rows of buttons on the tunic and the sleeves represented how closed off Snape was, how confined in his actions, and hinted that there was more to him hidden behind those constraints.
I was shocked, and deeply saddened, by Alan’s death, as many were. I’m still processing the loss of such a beautiful and magnificent soul. I immediately made a list of the movies I had not seen of Alan’s, British films that were not widely distributed when they initially released, and a few more recent ones I had not watched yet.
I have enjoyed his amazing portrayals in movies such as Mesmer, Snow Cake, Rasputin, A Little Chaos and Truly, Madly, Deeply. I’ve been reminded of his versatility and brilliance in the shorts Dust, Song of Lunch, and Play. And thanks to YouTube, I’m able to see his early works such as The Revolutionary Witness: The Preacher, and The Barchester Chronicles.
The Revolutionary Witness: The Preacher
Watching these films and shorts, catching interviews on YouTube, reading about his many projects, and learning how much he cared about people and offered his help, makes me miss this man I’ve never met. I realized though that by watching his movies I was getting to know the man at a richer, more intimate level, much as I learn more about an author by reading all of her books, or an artist by studying his paintings. Today, I came across an astonishing quote, an invitation from Alan that I had unknowingly already accepted.
I am doing that very thing, getting to know Alan, what made his heart sing, what gifts he offered to the world, what injustices drew his fire, by knowing his work. In appreciating what he did, I’m discovering more about who he was.
I had intended to write this post after I had watched all of Alan’s films, shorts, poetry readings and stage clips. But the flow of life presented this opportunity instead, by way of his birthday today. Thank you, Alan Rickman, for touching my life with yours, for accompanying me on my journey, without ever walking alongside in person.
Toward the end of the Harry Potter story, Snape’s good heart is at last revealed, as is his lifelong love for Harry’s deceased mother, Lily. “After all this time?” asks Professor Dumbledore. “Always”, is Snape’s solemn reply.
That’s my answer, should I be asked in the years to come if, after all this time, I’m still watching Alan’s films, still learning about him, still appreciating his gifts.
Always, I’ll say. Always.