Alan Rickman, one of the most beloved actors of British film and television, has died at the age of 69 in London. Rickman had been suffering from cancer, and his family confirmed that he passed away “surrounded by family and friends.” Rickman was one of the most dependable and admired actors of our times, as his 30-year long career, that criss-crossed from film to theatre, has created a veritable legion of fans.
Rickman was as versatile as he was endowed with equal measures of finesse and intensity. He starred in the leading roles of Truly, Madly, Deeply; four years later he was the honourable and modest Col Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, starring with Emma Thompson. He first shot to global acclaim as Hans Gruber, the fastidiously droll and cruel antagonist in Die Hard.
Rickman’s stage performances established him as a solid actor. His unforgettable breakthrough came in 1986 as the seductive Valmont, in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He was nominated for a Tony for the part and Lindsay Duncan memorably said of her co-star’s sonorous performance that audiences would leave the theatre wanting to have sex, “and preferably with Alan Rickman.” Other key stage works included Mark Antony opposite Helen Mirren’s Cleopatra, and the title role in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman.
And it was as Professor Snape that he left an indelible mark on the hearts of an entire generation, making an ink-and-paper character come alive so vividly, that we could never picture anybody else as the complex anti-hero. The nuances and complications of the character were drawn out beautifully, and the shock we felt at Snape’s heroic death is echoed today, when we can’t help but sit in mute shock as we try and fail to wrap our heads around the fact that Rickman is no more.
The star famously said, ““Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” As one of the many people whose lives his talent has touched, I know that I shall always think of him whenever I turn to page 394, whenever I see a Die Hard film, and whenever I read Sense And Sensibility.
And when, maybe years later, I re-watch an old Potter movie, and feel the same sense of loss in his death that I do now, someone will ask, “After all this time?”
And I’ll say, “Always.”