More Than Snape: The Many Memorable Roles of Alan Rickman

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We lost a wonderful, talented man this morning with the news of the passing of legendary British actor Alan Rickman. Rickman passed away due to complications from cancer at the age of 69, following the sad, similar path of David Bowie just last week. But we do not wish to mourn Alan; we’d prefer to celebrate and honor him. Entertainers devote their lives, energy, and talents to making us smile, cry, laugh, and think. Over the long span of his career, Alan dragged us along the emotional gamut in a number of popular films that will no doubt be getting teary-eyed viewings over the coming days. Let’s go back, take a look, and remember the many hours we spent with this man who will never be forgotten.  

Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter

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If you haven’t said “Potterrrrrrr” in Professor Snape’s trademark growl then you haven’t lived. Professor Severus Snape is without question Alan Rickman’s most widely known role. He assumed the part of the suspicious Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and played the hell out of it for eight straight films. We would say “love him or hate him,” but let’s not kid ourselves; Professor Snape was the sorta-not-really-villain-or-maybe-he-is-a-villain antagonist that we all loved to hate (or, in our darker moments, hated to love).


Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

It takes a man such as Alan Rickman to successfully play a villain in a film where basically 95% of the cast is villainous already. When Steven Sondheim’s cannibalistic murder musical Sweeney Todd hit theaters, audiences succumbed to the evil English reign of Rickman as the morally bankrupt Judge Turpin. He sang! He sneered! He was a truly messed up individual (which is saying something in a film about slicing peoples’ throats and chopping them up and baking them into pies). When Turpin finally received his much-deserved razor to the throat, we all cheered a little bit.

Harry in Love Actually

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Villainy comes in all forms, and doesn’t always involve magic spells and condemning innocent people to die. In the emotionally complex sorta-holiday film Love Actually, Rickman introduced us to Harry, a man who is romantically, and silently villainous. We watched on in horror as Harry, a married man, permitted the amorous advances of a colleague, and ultimately destroyed his wife after she uncovered his slimy and secretive behavior. It is said that one shouldn’t punch a man wearing glasses; we would happily have broken this rule in the case of Harry.

Sir Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest

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By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged! Alan Rickman didn’t always play the bad guy, and he was just as awesome when he played good guys. In the cult favorite comedic film Galaxy Quest he took on the part of Sir Alexander Dane, a British actor that played the part of Dr. Lazarus of Tev’Meck, an alien science specialist, in a defunct science fiction television show. Rickman’s trademark sour expressions and sneers were very much present throughout the film as Dane bemoaned the fact that fans only recognized him for his television role and not any of the other theatrical work he had done in the past. His "By Grabthar!" tag line lived on in infamy in the film, as it continues to in real life.


Sheriff George of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

The director of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves wanted Alan Rickman to play the evil, corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham so much that he would not take no for an answer. Rickman turned down the role twice before he agreed to take the part, with the caveat that he could interpret the role however he wished. Well, he interpreted it pretty nicely! Rickman’s Sheriff lorded over Nottingham with an iron fist and withering countenance that caused all but the bravest to quake in their boots. While we mourn the true death of Rickman this week, we were more than happy to see his Sheriff get his comeuppance at the end of this record-breaking 1991 action film.


Hans Gruber in Die Hard

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While Rickman ruined Christmas emotionally as Harry the cheating louse in Love Actually, he ruined Christmas in a far more physical and dramatic way as the international German terrorist Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard film. Sporting some serious facial hair (and looking so young and fresh!), Rickman was the bad guy to kill in what is often viewed as one of the greatest action movies ever made.

The Blue Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland

Did you see Tim Burton and Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland in 2010? If you didn’t, you completely missed out on one half of Alan Rickman. Rickman went into the recording studio and lent his vocal cords to the hookah-smoking Blue Caterpillar that leads Alice and her compadres on their epic quest. Rickman also completed recording for the character’s return in the upcoming sequel, Alice Through The Looking Glass, which will be released in May. That’ll be a bittersweet viewing for sure.


President Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels' The Butler

Lee Daniels’ star-studded historical film featured Alan Rickman in an unlikely, and truly moving, role. Not a villain here, no. In fact, a very complex and GOP-beloved figure. Rickman’s portrayal of Reagan was truly one of the standout (and brief) celebrity performances in this widely successful Weinstein Company release. He discarded his British accent, opened his eyes a little, and played a friendly, funny, approachable character! It was shocking and memorable.