On Jan. 14, it was revealed that actor Alan Rickman had passed away after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
When news broke of Rickman’s passing, many actors who worked with him shared heartfelt comments for their fallen friend and those who loved his movies gave their condolences.
At London King’s Cross Railway Station, a location featured in the Harry Potter films in which Rickman starred, the late actor’s fans created a memorial underneath the Platform 9¾ sign. All across social media, many fans of the actor wrote about their sadness over the passing of the beloved star.
Some are likely wondering why many people are shaken over the actor’s passing. He was never a bonafide movie star, he was not the heroic lead of a major tentpole film and he was never nominated for an Academy Award.
The sad truth is that Rickman was a great performer who never truly received his due.
In every generation, there are always acting gems that fall through the cracks and never get the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, Rickman was one of those overlooked gems. A prolific talent who could do anything, Rickman starred in a wide variety of films throughout his career and always delivered with whatever material he was given.
If there is a silver lining to his passing, it is that people will come together in their grief to celebrate the life and legacy of a tremendously under-appreciated talent whose work will only continue to resonate with so many people now that he has passed on.
The son of a working class family, Rickman was born in 1946 in London, England. Rickman always had a passion for acting, but through his early twenties, he pursued a career path as a graphic designer.
In an interview with Time Out in 1986, Rickman told Jane Edwardes the reasoning for this choice was that “Drama school wasn’t considered the sensible thing to do at 18.”
It was not until his late twenties that Rickman pursued his passion of becoming an actor.
Over the next decade, Rickman would go on to perform in numerous theatrical productions. His performance in the 1987 Broadway show Les Liaisons Dangereuses earned Rickman both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.
In 1988, American audiences saw Rickman for the first time as German terrorist Hans Gruber in the action classic Die Hard. In the film, Rickman takes your standard villain role and makes it something both lifelike and immensely menacing. I severely doubt the villainous character or the movie itself would be as iconic if another actor was cast in the role.
Yet, it was in his most notorious work as potions master Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise that Rickman truly demonstrated his ability to balance imposing anger with nuanced emotion. From The Sorceror’s Stone in 2001 to The Deathly Hollows Part 2 in 2011, Rickman brought the arc of Snape to life with grace and grit. For this, today’s generation will always remember him.
A cold man with hidden motives and emotional scars is the kind of arc that many actors would falter with by overplaying either the cruel or sympathetic side of the character. Rickman found the perfect balance to make the character’s eight-film arc feel authentic and moving. It is the kind of performance which should lead to an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but did not because the Academy often dismisses blockbuster movies as being merely disposable entertainment.
Though Rickman is no longer with us, he is not truly gone. He lives on in the memories and the stories that people will tell of him for years to come. Like the great artists who inspired him, Rickman is an actor whose formidable presence and memorably ominous voice will inspire many and in turn, help keep his legacy alive forever.