RIP Alan Rickman: The best bad guy a film could have
James R | On 14, Jan 2016
Alan Rickman belonged to that rare group of humans who could say more with their eyebrows than most people could in a two-hour monologue. It was that ability to strike fear into an audience with a tiny flick of his forehead that made him the consummate on-screen villain. From Professor Snape to the Sheriff of Nottingham, he just didn’t just define the idea of a Brit as the enemy – in the modern era of cinema, he practically invented it. Alan Rickman was, quite simply, the best bad guy a film could have.
It’s not bad going for someone who only started acting in movies at the age of 41. His first film role arrived just two days after he did in Los Angeles: Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Speaking on 5 Live’s Kermode and Mayo show last year, he revealed just how clueless he was about the whole thing. As he prepared to deliver Gruber’s speech to the hostages at Nakatomi Plaza, Rickman sidled up to director John McTiernan and said he might try it while eating a sandwich – not because he was a confident, experienced stage actor (he was), but because he didn’t know any better.
That’s the kind of performer he was – instantly, naturally, memorable, but also fully prepared to joke about himself. As much as he epitomised toffee-voiced nastiness, he was always up for a laugh; he was British in every sense of the word. When he called off Christmas, you believed it, but that didn’t stop him taking a part in Galaxy Quest sending up his entire persona as a respected thesp slumming it in a blockbuster. By Grabthar’s hammer, the NSEA Protector’s Dr. Lazarus was perhaps his greatest on-screen role; hilarious, understated, lacking in any pretension, yet still surprisingly moving.
That understated humility, along with his eyebrows, turned him into a national treasure before his untimely death at the age of 69. It’s little wonder, then, that he was cast as Professor Snape in Harry Potter – a villain who was far more complex than he first appeared – and less surprising that people loved him even more than they loved J.K. Rowling’s Boy Wizard.
His 28-year film career was deceptively diverse, taking him behind the camera for The Winter Guest and A Little Chaos and leading him to a paranoid android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a singing role in Sweeney Todd, romantic leads such as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility and Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply, and even Metatron in Kevin Smith’s Dogma. His lasting impression as a cruel, bearded German isn’t an insult to his memory, but a tribute to that charisma, which automatically made you root for anyone he played. Alan Rickman wasn’t the best bad guy a film could have. He was the best bad guy. Period. He’s probably up there in the heaven right now, raising his eyebrows and casually offering God a sandwich.
What Alan Rickman films are available on UK SVOD services?
A list of Alan Rickman films available on Netflix UK:
A Little Chaos
A list of Alan Rickman films available on NOW:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone