Alan Rickman: an actor of singular charm and hypnotic charisma

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Rickman, who has died at persons under the age of 69, was irresistible even at his most acid, and leaves behind an astonishing legacy of indelible performances

His aquiline face, with all its magnificent hauteur attained him a star: something between an eagle and a big cat. And that rich, resonant voice exerted a hypnotic hold on audiences, a bass rumbling which could sound like a creaking or a groan or a beckoningly sensual purr. It came from between lips which were kept mysteriously almost shut, like a ventriloquists. Alan Rickman morphed from being a Shakespearian leading man to being a character actor of enormous panache via a wonderful period of being a wildly charismatic bad guy in the movies.

He stunned Hollywood audiences in the 80 s as the villainous terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard, facing off elegantly against the sweaty and vest-clad Bruce Willis. And he was an outrageously funny Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, stealing the scene from a slightly stunned seeming Kevin Costner with lines like: No more merciful beheadings! And call off Christmas!

Generations of children came to know him as the menacingly scary master Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, although importantly he wasnt the unspeakable Voldemort: Alan Rickman always had a base-level of unexpected lovability , no matter how acid his barbs.

Alan Rickman was the classically trained actor and RSC stalwart who made a splash in 1985 as the drawling sexual connoisseur Vicomte De Valmont in the stage version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. After each performance, audiences were said to emerge from the theatre secretly and not so secretly longing to have sex most of them with Alan Rickman.

And yet the Rickman roles that I enjoy were those which demonstrated his gentler, calmer, more romantically vulnerable side. The first time I assured him was in the whimsical romantic fiction directed by Anthony Minghella: Truly, Madly, Deeply( sometimes nicknamed the British Ghost) in which he plays the spirit of Juliet Stevensons dead husband, who returns from the spirit world to ease her grief. He was unexpectedly engaging as the ram-rod straight Colonel Brandon in Ang Lees Sense and Sensibility. It was the movie which launched Kate Winslet in the role of Marianne, the young woman with whom Brandon is to fall in love after she has been trifled with by the caddish Willoughby. The final pairing of Winslet and Rickman made audiences smile and was part of the irresistible charm of that movie. Rickmans romanticism was finely judged.

Interestingly, he was to play a cad himself a real scoundrel, and not only a stage scoundrel, in Richard Curtiss sugary romcom ensemble piece Love, Actually, in which he is a man who is deluding his wife, played by Emma Thompson, caught buying expensive presents for another woman.

One of my favourite Alan Rickman roles is in a little remembered noirish drama of sexual obsession from the 90 s: Close My Eyes, written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff. Rickman plays an extremely clever and wealthy man, absolutely to be given to his young spouse( played by Saskia Reeves) and whose world is destroyed by the sneaking realisation that she is having a sexual relationship with her friend( played by a young Clive Owen ). Rickman is superb at conveying his characters brooding shock, his steely good manners, his suppressed distres in realising that his fund and prestige and charm are quite useless in the face of this catastrophe.

But many would say that Rickmans finest hour was his performance in the comedy masterpiece Galaxy Quest( 1999) about the casting of a cancelled sci-fi TV prove called Galaxy Quest , now has-beens condemned to making a living signing autograph for obsessive fans, whose lives revolve around a programme in which the stars have long since lost interest and have come to hate. But this prove and its hapless players become very important when a race of aliens arrive, having apparently find the prove and taken it for an historic document about reality.

Rickman is the fantastically self-important British actor Alexander Dane, who plays Dr Lazarus of TevMeck, a character with Spock-like levels of intellect. Rickman is wonderful at suggesting this Shakespearian actors fury and self-hate at get no proper run and get sucked into the lucrative fan world, wearing the stupid costume and make up at these fan-conventions and wearily saying his catchphrase: By Grabthars hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged !~ ATAGEND Galaxy Quest came out before the 21 st century world of Comic-Con and fan-power and it came out before all superstars accepted the career importance of dressing up in lycra and being a superhero or supervillain. Alan Rickmans Alexander Dane wonderfully sent up the whole thing and sent himself up as well.

The last time I assured him on screen was in cameo, as the French King Louis XIV, in the period drama A Little Chaos, which he also directed. Im afraid I didnt get on with the movie much, but Rickmans own performance was captivating: witty and self-aware.

Rickman was a one-off: a superbly achieved and generous actor whose vocal caress and physical presence hinted at romantic depths. He was a glorious Cavalier in a world of Roundheads.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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