British actor Alan Rickman (1946 – 2016) died five years ago. Sunday, February 21, 2021, would have been his 75th birthday. He was one of the most respected actors on either side of the Atlantic, on stage, in television, and in film. Had he not succumbed to cancer five years ago, he might easily have anticipated a knighthood for his theatrical work.
We know him best as Severus Snape, the complex wizard who devoted his life to protecting the son of his boyhood nemesis, in all eight Harry Potter movies. He was also, of course, Alexander Dane, the frustrated Shakespearean actor who was condemned to relive his role as the alien Dr. Lazarus in GalaxyQuest. In the action thriller Die Hard, he played Hans Gruber, and in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility he was Col. Brandon. In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, he played the Sheriff of Nottingham, a role played in other adaptations by Melville Cooper, Pat Buttram, and Paul Darrow. He was Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Like his GalaxyQuest character, he portrayed many Shakespearean roles, from Tybalt in his first television role in 1978 to Hamlet in 1992 and Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra in 1998.
“To summarize Rickman’s accomplishments in just a few geek culture fan favorites would be an onerous disservice to his memory. He began his career with the theater at the age of 26, when he left a graphic design studio (“Grafiti”) he had opened with several friends, to become assistant manager at the small Basement Theater Company. He sent a letter to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art asking for an audition, and to his great surprise, he was accepted. After graduation, he worked for a number of repertoire companies before becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He left that after a season, disillusioned by the company and declaring that he wanted to ‘learn how to talk to other actors on stage rather than bark at them.’ “
By Grapthar’s hammer, he will be remembered.