Losing A Villain, Mourning A Hero: Remembering Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman, award-winning actor whose formidable body of work spanned over forty years, has passed away at the age of sixty-nine. According to a statement released by his family to the BBC, he succumbed to a battle with cancer while “surrounded by family and friends.”

Born in Acton, London, Rickman began a career as a graphic designer before he decided to leave behind his small but successful design studio to pursue acting.

Rickman attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and, shortly after graduation, began performing with some of the most respected companies in English theatre, namely the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Court Theatre. His performance as the male lead in Les Liasons Dangereuses, produced by the RSC and directed by Howard Davies, earned him both a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk nomination when the play transferred to Broadway in 1987.

Rickman began his film career with a BBC film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in 1978. While he went on to enjoy a varied career playing several romantic leads, it was perhaps his ability to masterfully transform himself into the part of the villain that launched him to fame; Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber in the 1988 classic Die Hard earned him a spot on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains” list as the forty-sixth best villain in the history of filmmaking. From there, Rickman went on to play such memorable antagonists as Grigori Rasputin (Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny), the Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves), and Judge Turpin (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street).

Rickman’s more recent performance as the malevolent Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film series introduced his deep, velvety bass voice – a voice that even caught the attention of scientists for its quantifiable perfection– to a new generation of film lovers.

Despite having built much of his career on his ability to so cunningly play the bad guy, today his fellow actors paid tribute to the man himself, who was reportedly nothing like his onscreen personas. Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter films, shared the following message with fans in the wake of his Rickman’s passing:

Others also took to social media to mourn his passing:

Emma Thompson, who worked with Alan Rickman on seven films, paid tribute to him in a statement that described him as “the ultimate ally.”

“What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humor, intelligence, wisdom and kindness,” she wrote. “His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was—his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him.”

Meghan Greeley
Meghan Greeley is an actor and writer originally from Newfoundland. She has performed in films that have screened at festivals around the world, including Cannes, Karlovy Vary, the Utah Indie Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival. As a writer, her works have been published in The Stockholm Review, Metatron, Riddlefence, Nelson Publications, and the Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Drama. She is a winner of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival’s Playwriting Contest and first place winner of the Sparks Literary Festival’s Poetry Competition. She currently resides in Toronto.

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