Last week was an extremely painful one for many of us. Merely days after David Bowie passed away, the news broke that Alan Rickman had died - at the same age of Bowie, and also of cancer. His death has prompted an enormous public response, with fans of Harry Potter leaving tributes at Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, and hundreds of videos popping up on YouTube for all to see. The news was especially difficult for my fiancee Aimee, who rated Rickman as her favourite actor and celebrated her 30th birthday on the day he died.
Much of Rickman's reputation as an actor, and the subsequent tributes to him, have focussed on his uncanny ability to play villains. I'm not prepared to go entirely against the grain on this one; his Hans Gruber in Die Hard has become iconic, he's the very best thing about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and he's one of the most consistently compelling aspects of the Harry Potter series. But where lesser actors would allow those parts to become hackneyed or disappear into their costumes, Rickman applied his Shakespearean qualities to add nuance where he could - and where he couldn't, he would solve the problem by being memorably over-the-top.
Besides, there was a great deal more to Rickman than his brooding presence or distinctive voice (caused by being born with an unusually tight jaw). His performance in Galaxy Quest is arguably the best thing about Dean Parisot's excellent sci-fi comedy, once described by Star Trek director J. J. Abrams as "one of my favourite Star Trek films". He perfectly captures the frustation of a talented, versatile actor who is tormented to be forever associated with one role, in a performance which both brilliantly channels Leonard Nimoy and gamely takes the piss out of himself.
Whatever genre Rickman turned his hand to, it was always likely to lift the finished product above our expectations. He was a dab hand at period drama throughout his career, whether it was The Barchester Chronicles, Sense and Sensibility or his second directorial effort A Little Chaos. He was an adept singer, as evidenced in his excellent take on Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's masterful Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. And he had excellent comedic timing, whether in the gentle Love Actually or the far more provocative Dogma.
Any of these efforts would be a fitting way to pay tribute to Rickman, who has left a lasting impact on British culture. I myself will be revisiting Sweeney Todd in the next few days and reviewing Die Hard later this year. If all else fails, I recommend this clip from QI of John Sessions impersonating Rickman with surprising accuracy. RIP.