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Friday, January 15, 2016

Remembering Alan Rickman

No Awards Needed

By Chris Sabga

The news broke of Alan Rickman's death – from cancer at the age of 69 – around the same time the Oscar nominations were announced.

The ultimate irony in that: Alan Rickman has never been nominated for an Academy Award.

I just about gasped at that shocking tidbit. But Rickman's passing so thoroughly overshadowed the awards announcement that it's safe to say his incredible career more than transcended those empty accolades.

In a 2008 interview with IFC, Rickman expressed a British workingman's sensibility about the Oscar rat race: "Parts win prizes, not actors. You always know a part that’s got ‘prize winner’ written all over it, and it’s almost like anybody could say those lines and somebody will hand them a piece of metal."

Like most of you reading this, my first exposure to Rickman's immense talents was as the charismatically villainous Hans Gruber in 1988's "Die Hard." It was an incredible performance that elevated the entire film and helped launch Bruce Willis's career as a major movie star. "Die Hard" is now considered one of the greatest action extravaganzas of the already excessive and explosive 1980s, and Rickman's character is universally recognized as one of the best bad guys ever.

My next glimpse of Rickman probably came three years later – in 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." I despised the movie – I think I'm the only one – but Rickman was great in it. He always is.

Many years would pass before I would see Rickman again on-screen. I'll admit that I didn't particularly care for "Michael Collins," but Rickman was mesmerizing in it as Eamon de Valera, the real-life political figure who opposed the Irish resistance against the UK. Truthfully, I had no idea at the time that it was Rickman playing the part. He was such a chameleon as an actor that he completely disappeared into the role. It wasn't the only time I was fooled by one of his performances – even when I definitely should have known better.

The character he's perhaps most associated with is the complex and conflicted Severus Snape from the "Harry Potter" series. Yet, it took two or three movies before it finally clicked in my mind who was behind the sneering professor's raven hair. It was Rickman! Once again, the actor had vanished entirely in service of the character he was portraying.

I hate "Love Actually," and Rickman is actually to thank for that. He was such a downright cad that it spoiled my enjoyment of the movie and I remain upset on poor Emma Thompson's behalf to this day. That's how good he was as an actor.

His characters could be dark and dangerous, sneaky and shifty, but he was also an incredibly gifted comedic actor. His roles in "Dogma" and especially "Galaxy Quest" are proof of that. If you somehow haven't seen "Galaxy Quest," it's a fantastic satire on the "Star Trek" and sci-fi movies and culture – and Rickman was superb in it.

A legend of the screen and stage, was there anything Alan Rickman couldn't do?

Well, maybe get nominated for an Academy Award.

But that's a reflection of the broken Oscar system, not of Rickman's immeasurable gifts as an actor. He never needed "a piece of metal" to affirm his greatness. 


  1. Nice article. I agree with you on Galaxy Quest. It was a great movie. Did you see Quigley down under? I enjoyed that western film with him.

  2. Thanks, Jimmie! I haven't seen "Quigley" yet. There are a few other Alan Rickman movies I haven't seen either, but I'm looking forward to watching them in the future. I discovered a crazy one on Netflix last night - "Blow Dry" - about a hairdresser who enters the National Hairdressing Championship. I was too tired to watch it last night, so no idea how good it is, but it SOUNDS great! :D


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