Monday, January 18, 2016

A Just About Write Tribute to Alan Rickman [Contributors: Alisa Williams, Jen, Lynnie, Jen W., Marilyn, Lizzie, Megan, and Jon]

Alan Rickman, beloved actor of stage and screen, passed away on Thursday, January 14, 2016 after a battle with cancer. A few of the Just About Write staffers wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the wonderful contributions he made to our lives and the imprint he’s left on our hearts.

Alan Rickman was known for playing a fantastic villain and, like many people, that was my first introduction to this wonderful actor. However, my introduction wasn’t to Rickman’s most famous role, Hans Gruber in Die Hard. In truth, I watched Die Hard for the first time only a couple weeks ago. I had an overwhelming sense that I should watch this Christmas classic and finally see why everyone raved about Rickman’s performance. After nearly twenty years of watching Rickman, my reaction to Hans Gruber was a bit skewed. Of course Rickman was fabulous as usual. It was easy to see how his cool, calm, and slithering portrayal of Gruber reinvented the way villains were played. My reaction was simply a bit tempered because, after twenty years of watching Rickman, I simply had come to expect greatness from him.

I was eleven years old when I watched my first Alan Rickman movie — Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Rickman played the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. In 1991, there was no one cuter than Kevin Costner and no one more villainous than Alan Rickman. He played the Sheriff with maniacal glee. My friends and I took great joy in repeating the phrases, “I’m going to carve your heart out with a spoon!” and “Because it’ll hurt more, you twit!” Rickman could terrify, but had the rare quality of making you enjoy it while he did. The Sheriff of Nottingham was as slimy as villains come, but Rickman managed to find the nuanced humor in the man and played it for all it was worth. It made you loathe the characters he played, but adore the actor.

However, I don’t think the greatest villain Rickman ever played was Hans Gruber or the Sheriff of Nottingham. His portrayal of Harry in Love Actually was truly his most frightening character. Love Actually is a joyful Christmas movie that examines love in a myriad of relationships. Harry and Karen (played by Emma Thompson) are one of the few examples of love falling apart. Harry plays a husband who is attracted to his secretary. Karen ultimately discovers Harry gave his secretary an expensive necklace for Christmas, while she only received a CD. It alerts her to his infidelity and the couple is forever changed. What was truly frightening about Harry was how real he was. The chances of ever meeting a Hans Gruber were slim. But Harry? Yes, you could meet a Harry in your lifetime — a man who was a devoted husband until he cheated. A man who had everything and threw it all away. What made Harry so frightening was how human his mistakes were.

But my all-time favorite Rickman performance was not a villain. It was Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Rickman played Brandon quiet, even a little shy, but with a calming and confidence-inspiring strength. When Brandon walked into the room, everything felt safer somehow because he was there. Brandon’s love and devotion for Marianne goes unrequited for most of the movie. And yet, Rickman captured Brandon’s deep kindness so that you understood he was a man who simply loved without ever expecting anything in return. It’s why, when Marianne finally realizes Brandon is the man for her, it is so satisfying. Colonel Brandon was simply an intensely good person and the man who truly deserved Marianne.

As Rickman’s fellow actors have come forward to bid their farewells and offer praise to this fantastic actor, I have discovered the reason I always loved Colonel Brandon the most out of all Rickman’s characters: it seems Colonel Brandon is the closest to Rickman’s personality — an intensely good man who loved selflessly and never expected anything in return.


Die Hard is one of my favorite Christmas movies. I say this without irony. It was one of the first movies I saw that really made me happy as a viewer and got me into the action genre. A good portion of that enjoyment was watching Alan Rickman be charming, terrifying, and totally into the maliciousness and ruthlessness of Hans Gruber. He owned the role, and I was immediately a fan for life.

I fell in love with Rickman a second time when I saw Sense and Sensibility. His character was quiet, earnest, and Rickman played him with incomparable depth and emotion. You could look into his eyes and feel without doubt the love Colonel Brandon had for Marianne. This was no small task. Acting to be subtle is often the most difficult of tasks, and most felt when everything comes together properly. From him, it felt effortless.

I fell in love once more when I saw him in Galaxy Quest. He played the role with humor, lightness, and a steady but worthwhile transition from put-upon actor to hero of the galaxy. No one else could have carried the role the way he did.

Alan Rickman was there every step of the way as I grew up, and I am so thankful for it. His legacy is in the obvious love the people around him had, the wonderful, well-acted roles he gifted to the world, and the fans that will always adore him. He made it easy to fall in love with him all over again, in different ways, in different time periods, and on different planets. There will never be another Alan Rickman.

JEN W.: 

I love Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. I do. I sincerely like watching villains do their thing, and my early memories of this movie are incredibly fond because I watched it with my brother. Listen, Die Hard is legit, okay? Rickman brings such depth to every single character that he plays and watching him as Hans he was despicable and charismatic — just the thing you want your villains to be. I’ll go back now and appreciate so much more of this role and this actor, who was truly remarkable in everything he did. He’ll be deeply missed.


Picking a favorite Alan Rickman character is like picking which of my children I love the most; it’s just impossible. There’s the first, which is the incomparable Hans Gruber from Die Hard. But then there’s the one where I really noticed him, which was the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. He was hilarious and deadpan as Metatron in Dogma, romantic and lovely as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility and delightfully meta as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest.

I remember reading the Harry Potter books before there was even a mention of a movie. My husband and I read them together, and we both agreed that if there was a movie, we could easily see Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. We both read the books with him in mind for that character. When casting news was released and he was announced, it was a major fist-pump moment. Who else could capture Snape’s quiet menace quite so thoroughly? And the movies proved to us that our instincts were correct. Alan Rickman was Severus Snape.

Love Actually has long been a favorite movie and while Alan played a fairly skeevy character, he was part of it, and part of what made me love the movie as much as I do. I can hardly comprehend that he’s not around any longer. That there will be no new iconic figures for him to portray on the silver screen. It’s tragic. It’s a loss. But his legacy will most certainly live on.


Alan Rickman, for me, is both Colonel Brandon and Severus Snape. It was in Sense and Sensibility that I started to fall for him, but it was as the embodiment of the Potions professor that I became much more than a casual fan. The thing with Rickman is he could be all things convincingly: he could play the good guy, he could play the bad guy (many, many bad guys, all different from one another), he could play gruff, and he could do tender. Most of his characters are memorable, one way or another, but when I close my eyes and imagine him, it’s either as the desperate Colonel Brandon when Marianne was sick, or as the menacing Snape of that first scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I like my extremes, apparently.


Like millions of others around the world, I was (and continue to be) entranced by the world of Harry Potter. I remember attending midnight book release parties with friends, and spending the whole next day glued to a comfy chair reading about Harry, Hermione, Ron, and of course, Severus Snape. I can’t think of anyone better to have cast as Snape than Alan Rickman. I’d seen Rickman in a ton of films by that point, and thought him a brilliant actor. But it was his role as divisive, cruel, tormented, and heroic Severus Snape that really captured my attention.

J.K. Rowling created this beautiful world and these complex characters, but it was Alan Rickman who really brought the character of Snape to life for me. In a world where it’s so easy to divide everything into “us” and “them;” easy to think of ourselves as “good” and those who disagree with us or who bully us as “bad” or “evil,” the character of Snape taught us that everyone is human, everyone is hurting, and everyone is capable of both great goodness and mercy and great evil and treachery. Snape showed us a very flawed, but very human character. We saw his progression, we learned why he treated Harry the way he did, we saw his inner torment, all brought to life by Alan Rickman’s intricate talent.

Snape would have been an easy character for both Rowling and Rickman to leave flat and basic in his unlikeability, but they took Snape to another level. They made him human — perhaps even more human than some of the other characters in the story. Snape is flawed, damaged, and flat-out mean. But he is also loyal, protective, brave, and the ultimate hero of the story. Rickman’s incredible portrayal of one of the most contentious characters in modern literature will stay with me for a long time. But more than that, what that character taught me, about looking deeper, at the humanity that is within us all, is a lesson that will last a lifetime.


While Alan Rickman is more best known for roles such as Hans Gruber, Severus Snape, and Alexander Dane from Galaxy Quest, one of the most underrated performances of his career is the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Rickman wonderfully brought his deadpan sense of humor to Douglas Adams’ robot who has a terrible outlook on life.

I think the best aspect of Rickman’s performance (and the character itself) is that while everyone else gets zanier and zanier, Marvin consistently stays the same. He’s indifferent toward what’s going on around him, which is what makes Rickman’s performance work so incredibly well — being able to maintain that morose sense of humor, even as the situation gets wackier. Rickman is going to be well-remembered for Die Hard and Harry Potter, but his voice as a small, hilarious, little robot belongs with some of his best.


I can’t remember a time in my life when Alan Rickman movies weren’t on my radar. I would get so excited to see him in a movie and later on a casting announcement that I would see a film he was in without even paying attention to the plot. That is how incredible he was. He was able to command an audience solely because of his talent. We didn’t even care what the movie was about.

I remember loving his turn as a typecast actor in prosthetics who was a classically-trained Shakespearean actor in Galaxy Quest and still watch it whenever it’s inevitably playing on SyFy, which is just about once a week. I do the same when I see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and hope to see his role as Marvin, the paranoid android. He steals every scene he’s in as the depressed robot and that character wouldn’t have as much weight if it didn’t have the deep bass voice of Rickman behind it.

Every year, from the first Sunday after Thanksgiving until the first Sunday after New Year’s, I watch Love Actually. It’s my favorite Christmas movie and is one of the few times when Rickman showed us that although he’s astounding as the explicit bad guy, he can also play the sweet, caring family man who slowly develops into a bad guy. Later, as I became obsessed with Jane Austen, I discovered him as Colonel Brandon and loved him even more.

But no matter what, as it is with most of this generation, I will forever remember Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Harry Potter was, is, and forever will be a major part of my life simply because it came at the end of my childhood, the start of my adolescence and carried me into the first two years of my twenties — all of my formative years. I remember hoping that the casting would be right and it was like lightning in a bottle, with each character seeming to have walked off of the pages and onto the screen. Snape had to be perfect and though he looked spot-on in that first dinner scene, it was him storming into that Potions lab that sealed it. He loathed Harry and it was seen and felt in his body language, his stare, and in his delivery of dialogue.

As the book series continued to fly off of shelves and we learned more of Snape’s story, I eagerly anticipated the next adaptation to see how Rickman would tackle those moments. When we learned his story in The Half-Blood Prince, you couldn’t help but feel for him. And although we didn’t get most of it depicted on the screen, it was Deathly Hallows that proved exactly why Rickman was the wisest choice for this role. We were given answers to questions we had from the beginning and his story was written beautifully and was even more beautiful on screen. Without a talent like that, those scenes wouldn’t have stuck. But they did. It’s impossible not to get choked up as Harry dives into the Pensieve and experiences Snape’s life from the first time he met Lily, to the casting the Patronus to prove his love for her and until the end. He was the hero we didn’t know we had and Alan Rickman had conveyed that with more depth and strength than anyone else.

I am so sad that this enormous talent will no longer be there to give us more memorable performances both on screen and onstage. Even though I never met him, he was still important to me and the person I am today.

After all this time, we still love you, Alan Rickman.



  1. Loved all the comments!

    Did anyone mention TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY? No? Everyone go watch it and then come back here and tell us what you think. It is the first Alan Rickman film I ever saw and it is spectacularly good. I've been watching it since his death because it is the best way to mourn him, I think.

  2. Guys, all of your tributes to Alan Rickman have me crying, once more for his loss.
    The first time I saw Rickman on screen, and I fell in love with his charms and his manners, was in a music video of the band Texas, the song is 'In Demand'. I can tell you that I was around 14 years old and I felt like this was how a man should look like. Then I grew up, found out that he was in the Harry Potter movies, watched 'Sense and Sensibility' and I had complete devotion for him. Because I'm Spanish most of the first movies of him I watched were doubed, but I learnt English and I heard him for the first time... totally crazy about his talent, his ways, his voice, his acting. Everything.
    Just like Daniel Radcliffe said, movie sets and theatre stages are poorer because of this loss.