January 14, 2016: Alan Rickman, Harry Potter and Die Hard actor, dies of cancer aged 69
The news spread like fiendfyre, as his diehard fans across the globe sped to social media in order to express their sorrow and to pay their regards to the man who played such a prominent role, not just in a great deal of movies, but also in so many lives.
Of course, there are numerous cynics out there who are already leaving snarky comments on all the heartfelt posts put up by loving fans minutes after Rickman’s demise.
“So what, he was just an actor. Everybody cares if an actor dies, but what about the hundreds of people dying in Syria? Humanity is no more!” What, however, these closed-minded people do not understand, is that some actors- merely la crème de la crème- do a lot more in the course of their lifetime than simply recite a few dialogues. The Harry Potter series is, in physical terms, just 7 books- but to all its devoted readers, it is so much more. It portrays a hero who is willing to admit his dependence on others, a villain whose attempts to achieve immortality are bested by the undeniable truth that he is but a mere mortal- and, above all, the series signifies the possibility of a world filled with magic and charms. Hence, the manner in which all these characters were portrayed in the movies was of utmost importance.
Severus Snape (friend or foe?) was a riddle, throughout. His personality and intentions were difficult to decipher, and he remained mysterious till the very end. It would thus have been incredibly easy to mess up the movie rendition of this character. Yet, Alan Rickman achieved the (seemingly) impossible- he brought Severus Snape to life. Every word he enunciated (“…Ob-vious-ly”), every shake of his greasy hair, every step he took in his billowing black robes- it was all in keeping with not just J.K. Rowling’s words, but also every reader’s imagination. He showed us Severus Snape as his every day, magnificent self (“I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”)—and even gave us a glimpse of his true form- raw and vulnerable, dealing with unrequited love (“Has it ever crossed your brilliant mind that I don’t want to do this anymore?”). At every step of the way, he made us understand, believe and empathize with the labyrinthine character that was the misunderstood Potions master.
We hated him when he treated us with that cold sneer, showered him with pity when we saw poor old “Snivellus”, and shed tears when he took his final breath (“Look at me…you have your mother’s eyes.”). Yet not once did we feel that he was deterring from his character.
However, being a major character in the Harry Potter series was not Rickman’s only claim to fame- far from it, in fact. He played a number of roles to perfection, ranging from that of the unforgettable villain Hans Gruber, in Die Hard, to the astonishingly modest and thoughtful Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. He starred opposite celebrated actresses such as Emma Thompson and Juliet Stevenson in the classics Love, Actually and Truly, Madly, Deeply. He began work in filmography with British television starting with a rendition of Romeo and Juliet, but found it quite easy to clear his path to fame as soon as he tried his hand at movies, immediately landing the role of the legendary antagonist in Die Hard. He then made a name for himself as the perfect villain with roles such as that of a sheriff in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as well as a terrifying Rasputin in Rasputin-Dark Servant of Destiny. Not only did he leave an indelible mark on both American and British cinema, but also gave us glimpses of his breathtaking talent with his work onstage, both as an actor and a director. He worked with the likes of Nigel Hawthorne and Ralph Richardson, and even found a spot with The Royal Shakespeare Company. His portrayal of Valmont in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses bagged him a Tony nomination- which was merely another feather in his cap. He received numerous awards including a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Bafta; but much to his fans' outrage, he never won an Oscar. However, (and here’s another reason why we all loved him) Rickman was of the opinion that, and I quote, “Parts win prizes, not actors.”
His demise came as a shock to the masses as well as to his co-actors over the years, all of whom were equally smitten with his genial personality. Celebrities like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Thompson, and Michael Gambon had nothing but praises for the man—that, and genuine sorrow upon having lost such an extraordinary person at just 69 years of age.
Alan Rickman was a versatile actor and a wonderful person. He will be missed sorely by Potterheads and Muggles alike; but we raise our wands a final time for our beloved Half-Blood Prince. He will remain enshrined in our hearts- “Always.”