It’s already been a rough year in terms of losing beloved entertainment icons. First David Bowie, and this morning, I woke up to the news that one of my favorite actors, Alan Rickman, has passed away at the age of 69 from cancer. The exact age and cause of death as Bowie.
I mourned with the world about Bowie, but didn’t have the close connection with him that I do with Rickman. I grew up with this actor, and I’m a fan of all of his movies. As my husband says, “No one plays disdain better than Rickman,” but he was adept at playing every other type of emotion, too.
And his work spanned across generations and genres. Young fans know him as Snape in the “Harry Potter” movies (read his heartfelt goodbye to the character in 2011), but some of us have a long history with the actor, dating back to his roles in 1988’s “Die Hard” and 1989’s “Quigley Down Under,” and his work on the stage.
He recently revealed he had married Rima Horton in secret last year. The couple had been together since he was just 19 and she was 18 – a long union unheard of in the entertainment industry.
The London-born star began his career in theatre, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company, before winning roles in TV dramas like “Smiley’s People” and “The Barchester Chronicles” in the 1980s. His performance as the manipulative seducer the Vicomte de Valmont in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” on Broadway in 1986 brought him the first of two Tony Award nominations.
The accolades captured the attention of Joel Silver, who cast Rickman in his first film debut in “Die Hard,” opposite Bruce Willis. He went on to play numerous villains, including the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” for which he won a Bafta award, Judge Turpin opposite Johnny Depp in 2007’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” and Elliott Marston opposite Tom Selleck in one of my favorite all-time films, “Quigley Down Under.”
But Rickman could also play gentle,” as he did in 1990’s “Truly Madly Deeply,” in which he played Juliet Stevenson’s ghost lover and which also earned him a Bafta nomination. Further Bafta nominations came for his roles as Colonel Brandon in “Sense and Sensibility” and the calculating Irish politician Eamon de Valera in 1996’s “Michael Collins.”
The following year, he won a Golden Globe for best actor in a miniseries or television film for the title role in “Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny.” Other film credits ranged from Tim Robbins’ 1992 political satire “Bob Roberts” to Richard Curtis’s 2003 romantic comedy “Love, Actually,” 1999’s sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest and the voice of the Blue Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” He voices that role again in the upcoming “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” in theaters May 27, 2016.
Two years ago, he directed the period saga “A Little Chaos,” in which he co-starred with Kate Winslet. Meanwhile, he continued to be a major presence on the stage in London and New York, earning another Tony nomination for “Private Lives” in 2002, in which he appeared opposite Lindsay Duncan on Broadway following a transfer from London.
“Harry Potter” author JK Rowling led the tributes this morning, describing him as “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man.” She tweeted, “There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. My thoughts are with [Rickman’s wife] Rima and the rest of Alan’s family. We have all lost a great talent. They have lost part of their hearts.”
Emma Thompson said her “Love, Actually” co-star was a “a rare and unique human being,” “the finest of actors and directors” and “the ultimate ally.” Rickman directed her in “The Winter Guest.”
In a statement, Thompson wrote, “Alan was my friend and so this is hard to write because I have just kissed him goodbye. What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe said Rickman was “undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with,” and wrote on Google Plus: “Working with him at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career. Film sets and theatre stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man.”
Sir Michael Gambon, who appeared with Rickman in “Harry Potter” as well as on stage, told BBC Radio 4 he was “a great friend. Everybody loved Alan. He was always happy and fun and creative and very, very funny.”
Director Ang Lee, who cast Rickman opposite Kate Winslet in 1995’s “Sense and Sensibility,” called him a “brilliant actor… a soulful actor… [and] a great human being.”
TV star and Bafta ceremony host Stephen Fry wrote: “What desperately sad news about Alan Rickman. A man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed.”