It’s not been a good year so far. On Monday we woke to the devastating news of the loss of The Thin White Duke, leaving fans of all ages weeping along to Heroes on their way to work.
Today, however, the world has said a stunned goodbye to one of the most unique voices (in more ways than one) in British cinema. Alan Rickman and his dulcet tones have become one of the most instantly recognizable icons of the last few decades, with his unsurpassable skill at portraying bastards with hearts of gold, his films are always wonderfully watchable and instantly quotable.
So when the news hit this morning that the beloved actor had lost his battle with cancer at the age of sixty nine (seriously, what is it with this week??), this writer was left feeling the utter bewilderedness that comes more often with losing a loved one.
I grew up loving Rickman more for his voice than anything else. Watching Prince of Thieves as a child, I remember Rickman’s Sheriff being one of the first voices I tried to imitate. An utterly charming villain, running around threatening to cut hearts out with spoons and cancel Christmas in his deep and nasal manner was both hilarious and despicable. His begrudging turn in 1999’s Galaxy Quest as world-weary thespian Alexander Dane solidified my obsession with the man.
And then there’s Christmas. Most will argue that ‘tisn’t the season until they see Hans Gruber falling off the roof of the Nakatomi Tower. And yes, I will admit that Die Hard is mandatory Christmas viewing. For me, however, his turn in Love Actually really shows off Rickman’s acting talent. As an aging businessman who falls for the temptations of a young secretary, his onscreen relationship with Emma Thompson is absolutely heartbreaking, and perhaps one of his most underrated roles.
For most people across the globe, however (and indeed judging by the statuses of my Facebook friends from outside the UK), Rickman will always be remembered as Professor Severus Snape. Soothingly slurring out every syllable, Snape’s sinister presence is perhaps the highlight of the entire Harry Potter series, and as the news of his death reverberated around the office this afternoon, it seems that it is the role that really defined him as a screen legend.
Even at his worst, whether it was his unintentionally giggle-inducing rum-pum-pums in Sweeney Todd, or his questionable German accents, Rickman still managed to command a scene like few others have ever been able. At his best he was a dominating figure and true master of a script, as can be seen in his elegant realizations of such films as Perfume and even Kevin Smith’s Dogma.
We have lost not only a wonderful voice today, but a great actor and an icon of many childhoods around the world.
Goodbye, Mr. Rickman, and thank you for everything.