It’s been a rough week. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge David Bowie fan–not anti-Bowie, more that he was just never on my radar–but it’s clear that his loss echoed around the world. He was a rock icon, a pioneer in music, fashion, and public sexuality, and (perhaps most important to a child of the 80s) star of the movie Labyrinth. He was important to a lot of people, and it’s damned unfortunate that he was taken at only 69, when he likely had years of creativity and life left in him. Cancer is a bitch.
However, the much more cutting loss for me came this morning. Alan Rickman, an extraordinary actor of a like rarely seen, passed away–also at 69, and also from cancer. What makes Rickman’s death really hurt, for me, is how connected I was to the characters that he played. I think my first experience watching him was as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Even then, as young as I was, I found him delightful in his evil–a proper villain, with a comic edge that no one else could have captured. I learned MUCH later in life that he Rickman had a direct hand in rewriting the script, which was apparently terrible prior to his intervention. I didn’t see the original, but considering his revisions led to such timeless exchanges as:
Sheriff: “I’m going to cut his heart out with a spoon!”
Cousin: “Why a spoon, cousin?”
Sheriff: “Because it’s dull. It will hurt more, you twit!”
Certainly, I also remember Alan Rickman’s work from Dogma, where he played a witty, entertaining angel named Metatron, with a flair only he could have managed.
I would be remiss if I skipped over Love Actually, which has become a perennial favourite in our house for it’s quirky nature and lineup of endearing British actors. Even among such greats, Rickman shines with his signature blend of crass, sarcastic, and loveable humour.
But it was really the Harry Potter series that solidified Alan Rickman for me as one of the greatest actors of his generation. His portrayal of Severus Snape, a character of such deep complexity that he manages to keep both the reader and all the other characters surrounding him guessing at his allegiance and motivation right up until the end, was nothing short of a masterpiece–a crowning achievement in an already distinguished career. While other actors may have been considered (I understand Timothy Roth was a possibility before Rickman was chosen), I don’t think there is anyone else that could have brought Snape’s character alive in the way Rickman did.
As I walked to work this morning, having just found out about Alan Rickman’s passing, I couldn’t help but reflect on how ridiculous it might seem that I feel so affected by the death of someone I’ve never met, and would probably never meet if we both lived another 100 years. The sad and wonderful truth is that while I may never have had a chance to connect with the man himself, I have connected with his characters more deeply than I have with most people I’ve met in passing throughout my life. They were real to me, in a sense. I knew them. And through them, I caught a glimpse of the man behind the mask.
RIP, Alan Rickman. You will be missed.