American movie audiences were introduced to Alan Rickman through the character of Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” way back in 1988. The character is a lightly drawn Euro-trash bad guy who in lesser hands would have been utterly forgettable. Instead, Rickman gives a master class in what to do when you get a big Hollywood break and almost steals the movie from Bruce Willis. Gruber was slick, oily and ruthlessly efficient in his job and Rickman chews scenery like Godzilla munching on Tokyo. “Die Hard” also resulted in one of the greatest reaction faces of all time. This one:
The director and the stunt crew thought it would be better to drop Rickman on the count of “one” instead of “three”. To his last frame in “Die Hard” Rickman owned Hans Gruber and helped make the movie the classic that it has become. It would be the last time anybody asked who Alan Rickman was. He went on to have a versatile and accomplished screen career before his death on January 14, 2016. He played, among other things, an evil Australian rancher, the Sheriff of Nottingham, angel with an attitude, Dr. Lazarus and eventually one of the most complex characters in all of fantasy films, Professor Severus Snape.
His erect British composure and distinctive voice made him an instantly recognizable and welcome sight in films. You knew what you were getting from Rickman and you could always count on it to be anywhere between really good and Olympian. He would become instantly what the movie needed him to be, injecting a soul and depth into his roles that I’m sure the writers often didn’t know were there. As an actor he was simply a giant. An Olivier, Richardson, Gielgud, and Guiness-sized giant. The only guys left in that weight class are Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen so don’t sleep on cherishing them while we still have them.
Alan Rickman brought me and countless others a lifetime of enjoyment watching him ply his craft on screen over a 37 year career. He will be greatly miseed. Rickman is survived by his wife, Rima Horton, whom he met as a teenager.
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