Alan Rickman will always be Hans Gruber. Or maybe Severus Snape, for those born 10 years too late. And maybe that’s worth celebrating — two career-defining roles in a single career should be proof of just how good Alan Rickman was. Just how distinctive was his gnarled baritone, just how piercing and elegant were his features, just how steady and practiced and competent was his craft, his ability to sink so fully and unwaveringly into every role.
But Alan Rickman was so much more than those two parts. Take a closer look — how sad and unreal it seems, already, to call it a retrospective — and you’ll discover a career’s worth of career-defining roles: Tybalt, Rasputin, Emma Thompson’s husband in Love Actually. And that’s just his filmography. Rickman was a stage actor above all else, a man who made his name in London’s West End — and didn’t even appear in his first big Hollywood movie, Die Hard, until he was 41.
Yes, Alan Rickman made a name for himself playing evil (or vaguely evil) characters all his life. But what’s heartening on a day like today is how Rickman, the actor — not Gruber, not Snape, but the man behind the scowl — is and will be remembered. He was, in a word, beloved. Look at your Facebook feed. Talk to people who ever had the chance to know him, even a little. He was, it has been said, one of the good guys. The kind of actor you might want to work with, the kind of man you’d want to befriend. Even in his darkest roles, you can see that penetrating kindness in his eyes.
In one of his less celebrated roles, as the Shakespearean actor-turned-sci-fi star Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Rickman plays some twisted version of himself, poking fun at his implied stage gravitas and later stardom as a beloved nerdy kids’ character. It’s a thoughtful performance in a sometimes silly movie. It’s full of heart and compassion. It’s everything you need to know about the kind of actor Alan Rickman was. An actor with so many career-defining roles still ahead of him. So, in his death, all we can say is this: By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged.