Thursday, 14 January 2016

Alan Rickman: A British Institution

Reposted in memory of Alan Rickman who died today, more words to come...

You know what happens every year at Christmas? Alan Rickman invades the television.Seriously though, it's true! You turn your TV on for a bit of non festive action and, yeah, Die Hard is on. Wait, there he is! As the villainous head honcho Hans Gruber (Yippe Kai Yeah) I love Rickman's wonderfully over the top performance here! OK, so action isn't your thing, you're more a romantic comedy type of person and you're in luck as Love Actually has just started. There he is again! As the bumbling fool who totally undervalues his wife, Harry. Wait though, your kids want to watch a Harry Potter film but you want to go all retro and watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Rickman is in both of these and he is, as always, totally brilliant.

Alan Rickman is the sort of actor every Director or Producer wants in their films. He is a bankable star that will lift even the most mundane and by the numbers film to another level. For me, he is the only reason to watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (a film that suffers from a deplorable geographical accuracy and even worse accent from Costner.) His performance is a manic, horny Sheriff of Nottingham is just simply film gold. But that's Rickman's brilliance, he never coasts or turns in a mediocre performance, he delivers for his audience every time.

Alan Rickman was born on the 21st February 1946 in South Hammersmith, London. From a working class background he went on to study at RADA and worked within the Repertory theatres before moving to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His television work started with a role in the 1982 BBC adaptation of The Barchester Chronicles playing the Reverend Obadiah Slope. It was his performances in Robin Hood and Die Hard that made him one of the best villains in film history. Rickman has not shied away from lesser roles as can be seen by his portrayal of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the film version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a film which I really cant watch owing to preferring the better television version) and was also Master of Ceremonies on Mike Oldfield's seminal album Tubular Bells 2 (he read the list of instruments) It is perhaps Rickman's noticeable and striking voice that makes him such a joy to listen to as well as watch.

Rickman's portrayal of the Metatron in the the cult classic Dogma was simply astounding. "What are you gonna do? Hit me with that ffffish" being one of the stand out lines for me. Rickman's style and acerbic wit is something that he brings to almost every role he plays. He can do seriously tear jerking as well, mind you. Playing the tragically dead and imagined Jamie in the 1991 romantic drama Truly Madly Deeply is quite simply a performance which lingers long in the memory. Sensitively portraying a character that is gently trying support his surviving and grieving wife (Juliet Stephenson) as she comes to term with his death. Then, of course, we come to Severus Snape and, yes, I'm about to go all Harry Potter

I admit it, I am a massive Potter fan, both of the books and of the films. For me, J K Rowling has created an immersive and believable world that runs parallel with our own. As the books get darker so do the characters (Harry included) and right at the centre is the character of slimy, obnoxious Snape. Clearly despising Potter and relishing every opportunity to belittle and discredit him, Snape is a man on a mission and so very resentful. But has the series of novels progresses we get to know more about the nature and background of Snape. For me, Snape's character arc is the most interesting and surprising of all of Rowling's creations. He transforms from villainous, spiteful teacher to saviour of Potter and the whole world (it is his final tears that allow Potter to finally witness the truth to his arch nemesis)

To bring such a character to the screen would require an actor of superior capability. You just cant get away with playing Snape as simply vindictive, he is more than that. It is the performance of Rickman that brings Snape alive and in a way that is totally in keeping with the books. It is truly a journey of discovery that the viewer shares with Harry Potter himself. Moving from loathing to pity and then empathy as Snape mourns the loss of Harry's mother at the hands of worryingly noseless Valuemart ( I mean Voldemort) Rickman is a delight to view onscreen and clearly is enjoying every minute of his onscreen time as Snape. (Love) Actually that would be something I would say about every performance! Rickman is an actor who loves to work! Delightfully bitter and sarcastic as Alexander Dane (Dr Lazurus) or pantomime villain in Robin Hood. Yet Rickman still treads the boards in Shakespearian drama as well (most recently in 2011 Seminar).

You are pretty much guaranteed a good, entertaining evening as soon as you see Rickman's name appear. So go on, give in and let the Rickman disease take you over.

David Martin is a firm believer in wider reading but also spends his time watching horror films and going to the theatre. He has been known to venture outside but prefers worlds he can imagine. Follow him on Twitter at @ventspleen2014

Images From IMDB


  1. I now need to drink strong spirits then spit them out again in deference to Rickman's splendour.