Posted on February 21, 2016
Whether you most know him as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, or as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, or as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, most of us knew and loved actor Alan Rickman. He died of pancreatic cancer way too young, at age 69, just last month.
Rickman was born in London, England, on this date in 1946. He was born into a working class family, but I imagine that the family finances took a hit when his dad died, when Rickman was just 8 years old; Rickman's mom had to raise him and his three siblings mostly on her own.
Rickman was really good at visual art – calligraphy and watercolor painting, especially. And, although he became interested in drama while in high school, he stuck with graphic design and visual art in college because it was more practical. Upon graduation, Rickman helped found a graphic design studio – which was quite successful. Still, after three years of success in design, Rickman decided that it was a now-or-never moment for acting.
So he requested an audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and he was accepted. While attending drama school, he supported himself by working as a dresser for actors. (Theatrical dressers are stagehands that manage costumes backstage. They have to keep all the various costume pieces organized and help with quick changes.)
Rickman worked with repertory and experimental theatre groups, and it wasn't long before he was cast in important roles in live theatre, movies, and even TV (HBO).
In his career, Rickman played a lot of villains – Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Snape (whose character was not a simple villain, of course...). He didn't want to be typecast as a villain, and he took parts in comedies (Galaxy Quest, Dogma) and romantic comedies (Love Actually) and historical romantic dramas (Sense and Sensibility) to offset the typecasting.
Other actors and people in show biz have confirmed that Alan Rickman, the person, was the opposite of villainous. He was generous and warm and kind and supportive.
And wise! Here are some quotes:
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