in Honor of Alan Rickman
One of my all-time favorite actors has died and it makes me very sad. Alan Rickman was insanely talented, and probably appeared in way more movies than you realize. Instantly recognizable by voice alone, his specialty over the years was scary and evil bad guys without a heart of gold, or hilariously funny characters who may or may not have also been evil. With a look or a well-timed word he could turn an okay movie into a gem or become a pillar of a cinematic franchise.
Rickman could immortalize any scene with a word or phrase. In the otherwise lackluster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves he played the evil Sherriff who threatened Robin with, “I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!” He changed the original script to include that line, and later one of his henchmen asks, “Why a spoon, cousin, why not an axe?” His reply, off camera but still laden with fury and frustration made me hit the floor laughing, “Because it’s dull, you twit, it’ll hurt more!” Despite the poor quality of the film as a whole, few people who saw it forgot that line.
In Die Hard, Rickman played erudite sociopath Hans Gruber, who didn’t have a singular line in the film to distinguish him but is unforgettable in his evilness. Rickman was one of those rare actors who got scarier as his voice got softer, and he spoke most of his lines in this film in a conversational manner that can make a viewer shiver. The shock and terror on Rickman’s face on falling from the building is not just great acting, but a cruel bit of work on the director’s part – he told the stunt coordinator to drop him 25 feet BEFORE Rickman was expecting it. I recently found out that this is considered a Christmas movie, along the lines of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Lion in Winter, and Miracle on 34th Street.
Of course most of the world knows Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter universe. The character is beautifully drawn by author R.K. Rolling to begin with, but whoever thought to cast Rickman did the world a service. With a slight cut of his eyes and tiny curl of the lip, the sarcasm and barely suppressed hatred of his voice cut down Harry many times and caused us all to hate Snape. A lot. Later plot revelations makes going back and watching the early scenes again incredibly delicious, not least because Rickman played everything with his entire backstory written on his face, we just didn’t know it at the time.
But I have to tell you that my very favorite Alan Rickman film is one that has been almost totally neglected on the internets obituaries. In the year 1999 I had the great good fortune to go to the movies to see Galaxy Quest, starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Daryl Mitchel, and Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane. All of the stars are very funny in this movie with a great script, but Rickman was a revelation because we’re so used to seeing him play evil. The first image in the film is Tim Allen as Captain Jason Nesmith in an old TV series about heroic space cowboys. He’s sitting on his throne on the bridge and he completely nails William Shatner playing Captain Kirk. Some other guy and I both immediately guffawed before a line of dialogue was spoken. The story is super clever, about real aliens thinking washed up tv actors really were space heroes and asking said heroes to please save them from annihilation at the hands of the space bad guy. The heroes have been making a living selling autographed photos to fans at cons (and I know for a fact you can make a very good living doing that), and it’s getting more difficult by the day to get Alexander Dane to put on the pound of alien makeup and say his character’s catchphrase “By Grabthar’s hammer… by the Suns of Worvan… you shall be… avenged!” The moment Dane actually does say the line is the only truly poignant beat of the movie because it’s the first time he has ever really meant the words. Rickman’s reading is terribly full of emotion. How many actors can wring that out of Grabthar’s hammer? The BEST line in this funny movie is when the crew is on the hunt for Beryllium on a desert planet and they’re confounded by the creatures handling the sphere:
Dane: Could they be the miners?
Fred: Sure, they’re like three years old.
Dane: MINERS, not MINORS.
Fred: You lost me.
In honor of the passing of one the great actors of any generation, I think we should all pull out our copy of Galaxy Quest and enjoy his work of genius.
Galaxy Quest – Trailer [HD]
Galaxy Quest (1/9) Movie CLIP – How Did I Come to This? (1999) HD
CFR: In Addition: By Grabthar’s Hammer sir, you will be remembered. Always.
Severus Snape Memories – Harry Potter (fan video)