“I don’t play villains, I play very interesting people”, said one of the finest actors of our generation when met with interrogation from a young fan. The droll response characterised the lauded career of Alan Rickman, but told only a half-truth. The characters he portrayed; from the tragic Severus Snape to the Machiavellian Hans Gruber and everything in between, never wanted for depth or intrigue, yet in each offering Rickman’s performance extended further than mere characterization.
The life and spirit of each character was his own; he didn’t simply play interesting people, he was very interesting, perhaps the highest of all compliments.
The sardonic wit present in many of his characters belied a rich sense of humour and joy in the execution of his craft; his amusement at The Metatron’s Ken doll-like appearance is a cherished memory of director Kevin Smith, with whom Rickman worked on Dogma, Smith’s 4th Film. That this was just one of the multitudes of tributes to emerge from colleagues and friends after the sad news of Rickman’s death became public proves testament to the impact Alan Rickman had on our culture, and how he will remain beloved long after his death.
In a similar vein, my thoughts have turned to my first encounter with Rickman, watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on a sleepy Sunday evening. Being only 5 or 6 at the time, I didn’t know about film critique, but I knew a bad film when I saw one; yet Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham illuminated what could have been an irretrievably bad movie.
His portrayal of the evil Sheriff, for which he won the BAFTA for best supporting actor, is even more noteworthy in the respect that Rickman had previously refused the role, only accepting it on the condition he had carte blanche regarding the interpretation of the character. I learned this fact some years later and soon re-watched Robin Hood to try to appreciate his portrayal in particular, discovering a layered and heartfelt performance far more nuanced than I could have previously realised, cementing Alan Rickman in my mind as one of our greatest actors.
In time the ache of Rickman’s loss will wane. I look forward to remembering fondly this astounding actor and, more importantly, very interesting person.
Image: Icaro ferracini; flickr.com