When Alan Rickman died from cancer at the age of 69, the world rightly went into mourning for the loss of the actor.
There was an outpouring of love from colleagues and fans alike, a testament to his sensitivity and generousness.
And now on the late, great, actor’s birthday, we discuss why Alan Rickman is the greatest English actor of all time.
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Think about the man’s back catalogue, Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Harry Potter are just the tip of the iceberg.
Rickman was at home in period dramas like Ang Lee’s sumptuous Sense and Sensibility, as snivelling, slivering villain Professor Snape, or fractured and yet somehow still relatable adulterer Harry from Love Actually.
Some actors become associated with roles for the whole of their career – and Rickman is certainly one of those actors – but other actors become so closely associated with a type of acting that it’s hard to break from.
Think of Colin Farrell, nobody can portray tortured guilt on screen quite like that man can – In Bruges anyone? – but Alan Rickman brings an altogether different type of acting to the screen, and it’s much more subtle.
Rickman was incredible at playing the bad guy, that we know, yet there was so much more to his performances which made him so much more three-dimensional.
When Rickman played Hans Gruber in Die Hard, every ounce of Rickman oozed villain, but God you couldn’t help but love when he was on screen.
Gruber was smooth, charismatic, and almost endearing to the point that you kind of wanted him to win, despite his nefarious misdeeds and more-than-questionable morals.
To look at impact Rickman’s Gruber had in the Die Hard film, just think about how the film would look without him. If you put any other villain from the series into Nakatomi Plaza, the film would still suffer as a result.
The battle between Gruber and McClane was the beating heart of that movie, and a lot of it is down to Rickman’s magnetic performance in the film.
Similarly as Snape, even when the audience is first introduced to him, we feel a certain degree of attraction. The scene in the Potions class immediately sets Snape up as a source of incredible interest for the viewer, and that is carried in Rickman’s eyes.
Recall Christmas just gone, when you watched the obligatory Love Actually, and somehow found yourself sympathising with a cheating husband. He bought a necklace for his mistress, and a CD for his wife, but you somehow found yourself wanting his character to be okay by the end.
Why? Because Alan Rickman can make you sympathise with him in a way few other actors can.
Thankfully, people have recognised Rickman’s prowess in front of the screen, and have placed him on top of a poll of best English actors of all time on Ranker.
Ian McKellen is placed second, with Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Christopher Lee all rounding up the top five.
All great actors no doubt, with many individual reasons why they themselves should place at the top of the list, but for sheer effect after the credits start rolling, nobody will ever beat Alan Rickman.