By Michael Battista
On Thursday, Jan. 14, actor Alan Rickman passed away at the age of 69 after a private six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was known as a hard, and sometimes evil, potions professor, a brilliant bank robber and a brutal sheriff who’d stop at nothing to apprehend a thief. Of course, he starred in a plethora of other roles.
But most of all, Rickman was an actor with an ability to bring a certain flair to any role he played, no matter how varied.
Rickman, born in the Acton area of London, England, was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). After graduating in 1974, he began a theatrical career that included working with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company and was eventually invited to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival. Even after performing in productions such as “The Tempest” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” Rickman claimed he disliked his time with the group, saying he wished younger actors could have more time to develop.
His breakout role as Le Vicomte de Valmontin in the 1985 production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” earned him nominations for both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award. Rickman was then given his first big screen role in the film “Die Hard.” He played the terrorist Hans Gruber, opposite Bruce Willis’s hero cop character, John McClane.
The performance, which he did for low pay, earned Rickman critical acclaim and his character has been listed in the American Film Institute’s “100 years… 100 Heroes & Villains” list at number 46 for the top 50 villains of all time.
In a career that spanned over three decades, playing both memorable villains and romantic roles, Rickman’s most famous role came as the broody Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” film series. Author J.K. Rowling insisted on having Rickman for the part. So that he could better understand his character, Rowling actually told him a bit about Snape’s hidden past that wouldn’t be revealed to viewers until much later in the series.
“I didn’t really understand at first,” Rickman said in an interview on the Biography website. “It was information she hadn’t told anyone else, not even her sister, but it gave me what I needed to take on Snape.”
For his portrayal of the well-known character, Rickman once again garnered critical acclaim. The icy, sarcastic and humorless professor became a favorite for “Harry Potter” fans, no matter which side he was believed to be on.
Rickman lived a private life, marrying his longtime girlfriend Rima Horton in a quiet ceremony in 2012. He strived to help actors around the world by becoming an honorary president of the International Performer’s Aid Trust, which helps fight poverty around the world. In 1993, he was elected to the RADA council, acting as a vice chair, and in 2015, he joined the council’s Developmental Board.
Whether he was giving it his all on screen or helping the talent of tomorrow, Rickman’s impact on both the film and theatre industry is immeasurable. Finding the right words for a goodbye is far too difficult, but perhaps John McClane’s final line to Hans Gruber says it best.
“Happy trails, Hans.”
By Kimberly Ilkowski
Arts & Entertainment Editor
When someone so full of life passes away, it’s hard to fully wrap your mind around the fact that they’re truly gone. When news broke of legendary English rock singer David Bowie’s passing on Sunday, Jan. 10, it was met with disbelief that such a transcending spirit would no longer be gracing us with his art — especially after his latest album “Blackstar” was released just two days prior on the singer’s 69th birthday. Bowie had been privately battling liver cancer over the last 18 months and according to a Wednesday, Jan. 13, Daily Telegraph article, “Bowie’s final record was a carefully-orchestrated farewell to his fans, his producer has confirmed.”
It’s no surprise that a man who released 25 albums in a career spanning nearly 50 years would transform his impending death into his final, and perhaps one of his finest, performances.
Fans turned out in droves to honor the late singer following the news of Bowie’s passing, with celebrations of his life and music popping up in London, New York, Los Angeles and everywhere in between.
Bowie’s unrivaled exuberance and taste for the extraordinary were captured by fans as they dressed up as the different personas he experimented with throughout his career. Many donned the famous red lightening bolt down their faces as Bowie did on his “Aladdin Sane” album cover.
Bowie helped shape the world around him with his progressive performances and knack for pushing the boundaries of what people are comfortable with. To talk about his impact on music is to also acknowledge his profound role in his listeners’ lives, helping fans find the confidence to be who they are.
In true, otherworldly Bowie fashion, a constellation in the shape of a lightening bolt was named in his honor, according to a Monday, Jan. 18, article on The Guardian.
Perhaps the Starman is finally home.