Many have commented on the untimely death of remarkable actor Alan Rickman this week. And so soon on the heels of the sad and unexpected passing of David Bowie.
Most of the tributes to Rickman have been of the perennial “Top ten performances” variety. “Most memorable,” “most romantic,” etc. And that’s fine, because we all have “our” Alan Rickman.
So when I thought this week about how to frame “my” tribute, what struck me is that Alan Rickman was perhaps the only actor I can identify, with whom each of my main relationships and I have bonded over.
And as I thought about my favorite roles of his, not only was I unable to whittle down to one, but I also realized that Alan Rickman truly cut across nearly all the categories of my life and relationships, and I will always treasure him for that.
Truly Madly Deeply & My Parents
The first film of Rickman’s I remember seeing, my parents (and sisters) and I watched this story of two musicians loving each other beyond death. We were so moved, particularly by the ending. It’s still one of the loveliest finales in film, with the spirit of Jamie, Rickman’s dead character, watching as his living love ‘moves on’ to another man. From early on, my father (and first writing teacher) told me of how art can capture the power of the spirit, of the life beyond, and of the passing of time, more powerfully than many realize. This film was one of the finest examples of his advice, which I remembered when I began to write in earnest. With the lovely Bach score marking the end of one love and the start of another, this was the first time Rickman blew my mind with an unforgettable performance.
Sense and Sensibility & My Sisters
My sisters and I have quoted Jane Austen (novels and films both) at all ages, at all times, in all circumstances. But fresh off of college graduation, and that Jane Austen thesis I completed to get my English degree, this film brought a fresh look and feel to Austen, beyond what the BBC TV adaptations of the 1970’s and 1980’s did. When Alan Rickman brought Colonel Brandon alive in the film, even beyond what Austen herself likely envisioned for this character in her first novel, we saw a veteran in every sense — a seasoned actor in his prime, playing an aging soldier, and a widower, hoping against hope that love might bloom again. Rickman embodies an Austen hero as well as anyone.
Galaxy Quest & My Husband
My husband is a Trekkie. I’m not. But we both love this witty and touching movie. It’s the way that we are able to bond over Star Trek, by enjoying a movie that makes fun of it. Rickman’s character Alexander Dane, always lamenting his years of dramatic stage training wasted on science fiction TV shows and car commercials, is comic gold, particularly the more serious that Rickman’s face gets in his alien prosthetic make-up. A completely different side of the serious, rich-voiced actor. And a source of many date-night-at-home laughs.
Harry Potter & My Kids
Though I never got around to these books and films as a single gal, I’ve certainly been baptized by fire via our ten-year-old daughter. Through her I’ve come to learn the endearing nature of this series and its universally-loved array of characters, including the great Severus Snape. Rickman’s performance is mesmerizing as this recurring and surprising character — and not just because of the black hair. We are still venturing through this story journey, as my eldest daughter reads the books and watches the films, with me enjoying them alongside her. (Little sister watches excerpts of the films, too, for now). I haven’t told the girls that the man playing Professor Snape has died, but we’ll have to get there someday soon.
Love, Actually & Me (!)
Yes, me. This is one of the films I love to see with a glass of wine and a box of See’s candy or pint of Haagen Dazs, if I ever have an evening to myself. And not just at Christmas. I have seen it with my sisters, friends and husband, but for me it’s a solo guilty pleasure I try to indulge in annually. Though Rickman’s character proves one of the most disappointing, he still gets our sympathy in the hands of such a master.
I loved Alan Rickman’s unpredictability as an actor, because I relate a tiny bit to wanting to be an anomaly. Perhaps there are others out there, but at this point I don’t know a lot of Armenian Christian women who love artsy fartsy films and listen to sports radio every morning, for example. Who toggle the TV remote between Downton Abbey and ESPN. Just as I dislike being categorized or pigeon-holed by others, so Rickman purposely avoided being typecast (e.g., playing Ronald Reagan in The Butler) and it’s part of what makes him so beloved.
Die Hard & Sports Radio
So even the morning the news broke in the US, as I listened to Jim Rome on my local sports station 1090, I thought I’d have a break from the Rickman coverage I’d been indulging in on Twitter, The Guardian, and Facebook in the wee hours. But even on Jim Rome’s Jungle, sure enough, there he was again. Over the radio, I heard grown men grieving this man and actor, the Die Hard villain Hans Gruber, who is still one of the most gripping film villains of all time. I heard these guys choking up as they called in or wrote in to talk about this man.
The same man — actor, director and playwright — that traditional and avant-garde theaters in London were grieving in their tweets and website posts.
The same man that little kids were talking about in their classes as they went “wands up” for Snape.
The same man who could make our Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone-obsessed family forget the original Robin Hood film for a moment and revel in his gleefully evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the remake.
The same man who meant so much to so many. Though I never met him, I thank him for being who he was, for being everyone’s, for being ours.