RIP Alan Rickman: we’ve lost a great

First David Bowie goes then, mere days later, we lose Alan Rickman. Both 69 and both lost their battles with cancer. This just isn’t acceptable. It’s so, so sad.

But I am sure the man that so artfully played Severus Snape in Harry Potter wouldn’t want us to be morose and down in the dumps, oh no. For little do people know, but Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman was a bit of a joker and had a great sense of humour. That’s the rub kids, he was acting. Acting. And he was bloody good at it too.

So rather than mourn his death let’s celebrate his life and, more specifically, his excellent body of cinematic work. Known for playing bad and despicable types, Rickman’s first credit on IMDb is for the nefarious Tybalt in a TV movie of Romeo & Juliet in 1978. This must have set the scene for what came next, surely? For a decade later, having worked steadily in TV and theatre, he made his big screen debut as the delectable – and thoroughly evil – Hans Gruber in Die Hard in 1988. A classic bad guy, and thoroughly worthy opponent for Bruce Willis’ cop in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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For me, the next time I saw Rickman chew up the scenery and scare – and hugely entertain – everyone around him, was as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991. Again, surrounded by Americans who weren’t quite sure what to do with him, they muddled by as best they could as he threatened to ‘cut their hearts out with a spoon.’ His legend status was beginning to cement nicely.

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He then decided to tone it down a bit, taking the role of the Metatron (the voice of God) in a quirky indie flick called Dogma, starring a young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. His entrance, causing Linda Fiorentino to raise an eyebrow (no easy thing, she’s fiesty), proved he was very much in on the joke.

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Demonstrating his comedy chops were just as fearsome as his bad guy routine, he continued the trend that year playing a jaded and exasperated actor slowly unravelling (and massively enjoying himself in the process) in cult hit Galaxy Quest, a send-up of Star Trek, opposite Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen.

Then, in 2001, we got to see his take on the character for which he’s most well known, Severus Snape in Harry Potter. At the time just a fledgling film and not the juggernaut franchise we now know and love. And whilst the whole cast went towards making it a success – and spawning the aforementioned franchise – Rickman’s performance as Snape (probably the most accurate portrayal of a Harry Potter character by any of the cast) was no doubt a big part of that success.

So with the franchise going from strength to strength for the rest of that decade, Alan was kept busy, but to his credit he never let the character of Snape go stale. He was always finding new ways to give him more depth and nuance. Even make him sympathetic (he was helped by Snape’s arc in the source material, but J.K. Rowling was still writing the books and he still had to put it across what he did know convincingly on screen).

On a break from Potter in the early days he also managed to get in a romantic comedy, of sorts, in Richard Curtis’ obligatory one-to-watch-at-Christmas movie, Love Actually. Despite the gargatuan cast, he stood out. His relationship with Emma Thompson’s character is one of the most heartbreaking and affecting story strands in the whole thing.

LOVE ACTUALLY, Heike Makatsch, Alan Rickman, 2003, (c) Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

In 2010, in what I consider to be an inspired bit of casting, he then played the Blue Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. His dour delivery of lines striking just the right note to stop the film from becoming too overloaded with Johnny Depp’s mad overacting.

A few years later, in 2014, he even turned his hand to directing, in a moderately well received period piece A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet.

And, even though he’s now gone, we may see him again, or at least his voice, as he reprised his role as the caterpillar in the not-yet-released Alice Through The Looking Glass.

So on a final note, to paraphrase/steal a line from Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black… Alan Rickman isn’t dead, he’s just gone home.

But if I’m wrong, RIP Mr Rickman, wherever you are, you’ll be missed beyond measure.

 

RIP David Bowie: You remind me of the babe

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know… David Bowie died today finally losing his battle with cancer aged 69, and tributes flooded the internet because, despite what most of us like to think, Bowie was a freak. An oddity.

And we’re all odd freaks too (most of us), so we loved that he allowed us to embrace that. Simply put, he showed us the way – through his music, acting and constant reinvention. He took us to the heavens and the stars helping us expand our thinking, and he naval-gazed in his quieter moments, causing us to reflect inward and question ourselves.

On a personal level I discovered Bowie through old cassette tapes in my parent’s music collection. I had a listen and liked them, but didn’t quite ‘get it’, so put them aside and went back to my house records (I used to DJ a bit back then).

Then, around ten years later in my mid-20s, I found Bowie again.

Now I own an acoustic guitar and his songs had ways of finding me and making me sing alone in my room, expressing myself in a most liberating manner. From Space Oddity to A Man Who Sold The World to Starman, I sang my little heart out. What music was this? It was glorious and timeless (but in a good way, not a stuffy, Antiques Roadshow kind of way).

Then I became aware of his work in film, watching him steal scenes in The Prestige opposite Hugh Jackman. And so I revisited an ’80s, coming-of-age classic, The Labyrinth, where he was something of a force of nature, strutting his stuff in leather trousers opposite a young Jennifer Connelly.

I could go on… and on. But, well, you get it. If Bowie meant something to you then he meant something to you. And he kind of meant something to a great many of us, in profoundly different ways.

So, as tribute, below are a selection of clips that meant something to me.

Rest in peace David Bowie, you’re now among the stars.

 

RIP Robin Williams

Dead at 63. So sad. A look on IMDb shows Williams had over 100 acting roles listed on his filmography. That’s some output.

Whilst his work varied from genre to genre he was best known for comedy. And being a genuinely sweet human being (as the tributes to him on Twitter recently showed).Good-Morning-Vietnam-robin-williams-25340806-2560-1731

Also, if you think about it, how many other actors led such a varied career in terms of roles? This was a guy who in recent years has played President Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum (twice), and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. One role serious, straight and to the letter, the other as off the wall as you can get.

I’m 31 and, for me growing up, Williams was more significant than I care to admit. Here’s a selection of some of his work that’s impacted me the most:

  • Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) – Adrian Cronauer
  • Hook (1991) – Peter Banning
  • Aladdin (1992) – Genie
  • Jumanji (1995) – Alan Parrish
  • The Birdcage (1996) – Armand Goldman

A lot of these are children’s films, but that’s in no way a disparaging comment. He exuded a sense of enthusiasm, playfulness and wonder that really spoke to kids. There was also an inherent sadness to him at times. And therein was his appeal. Joy and sadness. Light and dark. All the best actors have it and draw from it for their performances.
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And now, in the world of comedy, there’s a void. One that will be immensely hard to fill. The best tribute we can all pay him is to revisit his work. Go and discover his films and performances you may have forgotten and share them with others. (For me I’ve got Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting to watch.)

RIP Robin. Thank you for your contribution to cinema, entertainment and putting a smile on people’s faces wherever you went.

We’ll miss you.