Today (14th January) we lost another legend to cancer, in the same week as David Bowie. Like Bowie, Alan Rickman was 69, an actor with one of the screen’s most distinguished voices and a towering presence. After years on the stage, coming to the attention of most in the London production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Rickman exploded onto the screen as terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard. From that point a star was born. With a string of hits, he will probably be remembered as playing Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.
Here, in tribute, are my ten favourite Rickman roles. Rest In Peace, Hans.
10. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
At the height of his fame, Rickman turned away from playing the villain to play the nice guy in Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic love story. With a strong cast including Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet, Ang Lee’s drama is bright and breezy and Rickman is dashing as the Colonel.
9. Blow Dry (2001)
Underrated British comedy in which Rickman played a hairdresser who was once at the top, brought out of retirement from his small Northern business to take on his arch rival, Bill Nighy. This slight Romeo And Juliet style comedy romance from the writer of The Full Monty, gave Rickman plenty of room to show his comedic arm.
8. Close My Eyes (1991)
Tough British drama in which Rickman plays a married man whose wife starts having an affair with her own brother. Clive Owen and Saskia Reeves also star in this emotional drama from Stephen Poliakoff.
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)
Even though the film wasn’t a patch on the original radio and TV series, Rickman was perfect as the voice of Marvin, the paranoid android, bringing an air of stability to the otherwise chaotic Douglas Addams world.
6. The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
As the dubious Professor Severus Snape in all the Harry Potter movies, this will be the role that most will cherish and remember him for. The dark wizard who you never knew his allegiance, he commanded every scene he appeared in, even when sharing it with other big British actors or even the special effects department.
5. Love Actually (2003)
Now a Christmas tradition, this multi-character production from Richard Curtis is often sickly sweet, except for the storyline involving Rickman as a man lured by a young co-worker into a secret affair while wife Emma Thompson suffers in silence. Their scenes are the high-point of an otherwise uneven comedy drama.
4. Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)
Sadly forgotten due to the huge success of Ghost, this British drama has Juliet Stevenson as a woman who loses the love of her life and tries to carry on, even though the pain of his death haunts her, as does he. Rickman plays her love in a film that manages to be charming, amusing and heartbreakingly sad.
3. Galaxy Quest (1999)
Rickman surprised everyone by co-starring in this cult comedy with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. A tongue-in-cheek spoof of Star Trek and their obsessive fans, this has the actors of a TV science fiction show having to live their roles for real to save an alien race. Rickman, thankfully, has all the best lines.
2. Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
Forget Kevin Costner and his Californian Robin, or that Bryan Adams song. The real star of this was Rickman’s wildly over-the-top, scene chewing Sheriff of Nottingham, with his dark mullet and a line in sarcasm that took this mediocre blockbuster to new heights. Call off Christmas!
1. Die Hard (1987)
The film that brought him to the world’s attention. As the evil Hans Gruber, the leader of a group of terrorists who take over a skyscraper, he was an excellent adversary to Bruce Willis’s wisecracking John McClaine. Still the greatest action movie ever, with no small thanks to Rickman’s performance.