Alan Rickman was born in Acton, London in 1946. After finishing high school he attended Chelsea College of Art and Design, then the Royal College of Art. He then co-founded a graphic design studio, where he worked successfully for three years. Then he quit, set off for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and thus began his tour de force of acting excellence which continued until his death.
He is perhaps best known for portraying Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films, interestingly, as the only actor who was told anything about the ending to the series when the movies began. Rickman tailored his performance accordingly, and upon re- watching his scenes, one can clearly see the thought and consideration which has gone into every layer of the character. Right from his first appearance the performance is nuanced and carefully considered to incorporate the secrets only he was told.
Rickman’s performance in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is another outstanding career highlight. The film demonstrates some of the worst historical filmic excesses of the 1990s, and is not by any means perfect. And then Rickman appears. His Sheriff of Nottingham is perhaps the most entertaining villain in cinema history. It is almost like Rickman is playing a character from a different film, and while normally this would be an issue, Rickman is to my mind the only reason it is worth sitting through the entire 140 minutes of movie. I do so gladly.
He played a variety of romantic roles throughout his career, Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, Harry in Love Actually, and Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply – a film which gains new poignancy since his death as he portrays a ghost. Rickman also tried his hand in less traditional fare, playing a disgruntled and cynical actor in the Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest, and as Marvin the paranoid android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. His Hollywood breakout role was that of Hans Gruber in Die Hard, another legendary villain who remains iconic in cinema history. Rickman said recently that he took the role because of the script’s “positive and intelligent” treatment of black characters. Rickman was a huge human rights supporter, promoting gender and racial equality throughout his life.
He was a huge supporter of charitable causes, as a patron of the research foundation Saving Faces, and honorary president of the International Performers’ Aid Trust. Rickman also served as vice-chairman of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he had previously trained, supporting a new generation of actors. He also turned his hand to directing, with The Winter Guest (1997) and A Little Chaos (2014), which both demonstrate Rickman’s wonderful understanding of the human condition and adding yet another talent to his roster.
Alan Rickman created a body of work which will endure as his legacy for years to come. He is thought of as one of the greatest actors of his generation, and his role as a mentor to many actors is well documented, demonstrating his generosity and kindness. As far as his legacy goes, Rickman is remembered as a wonderful man, a great actor, and a very genuine human being. He will be greatly missed. Always.