Alan Rickman was a greatly admired British star of TV, film, and stage. He is best known for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. Rickman played the enigmatic Potions Master with chilling emotion, a striking presence, and a formidable glare. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, was amongst the first to pay tribute to Rickman, telling The Guardian: ‘There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man’.
Alan Rickman wasn’t always going to be an actor. He studied graphic design, and went on to set up his own graphic design business with several friends, called Graphiti. But it was an audition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) that brought Rickman into the acting world. Rickman’s stage breakthrough came in 1986, when he played the sardonic seducer, Valmont, in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It was the vast range of skills he displayed when acting in this production that made him so memorable.
In 2005, Rickman further showcased his talents as he directed the award-winning play, My Name is Rachel Corrie. Rickman and Katharine Viner produced the play using the emails of the real Rachel Corrie. Corrie was a student tragically killed by a bulldozer while protesting against the actions of the Israel Defence Forces in the Gaza Strip.
The 2007 Tim Burton musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, gave Rickman a chance to demonstrate his diversity as he played the rapacious and powerful villain, Judge Turpin. His performance as the antagonist is wonderful, Judge Turpin is a truly disturbing and ghoulish man. The first time I watched Sweeney Todd I was impressed with Rickman’s musicality. Rickman and Johnny Depp’s duet ‘Pretty Women’ is a brilliantly eerie piece of cinematic genius.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is, and always will be, one of my favourite films, purely for Alan Rickman’s performance. He won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor and deserved it too, for a performance full of humour, wit and villainy. There are even rumours that Kevin Costner, who played Robin Hood, had some of Rickman’s scenes cut when he realised he was being overshadowed by such an amazing actor.
Throughout his career Rickman has supported the arts, working hard as Vice-Chairman of RADA. Additionally, he has volunteered for charities such as Saving Faces, an organisation which helps those who suffer from facial disfigurements. In recent years he set up a scholarship fund at Latymer Upper in West London, offering children from disadvantaged backgrounds the same opportunity he had to attend this prestigious school.
Love and appreciation for Rickman has been overwhelming from his fellow actors and friends. Actress Kate Winslet, who worked with Rickman on A Little Chaos (2014), told the BBC, ‘He was an exceptionally warm and giving man and an utterly phenomenal actor and gifted director.’
He was a wonderful man and an incredible actor. The world has lost one of its greatest voices, and his influence on cinema will remain for years to come.
Article by: Molly Jensen and Jennifer Vennall.