My first encounter with Alan Rickman was in a movie theater at the age of nine when my parents took me to see Galaxy Quest. Granted, it was many more years before I came to fully appreciate the intricacies of that particular film; both as a parody/homage of all things Star Trek and also as a pretty good action-adventure/comedy feature in its own right. But even at that young of age, Rickman stood out as Alexander Dane, a formerly respected, Shakespearean-trained British actor who loathes his typecast-inducing role as Dr. Lazarus on Galaxy Quest’s namesake TV series and how his career now consists entirely of convention appearances. Why, it was not unlike the way a certain Severus Snape loathed that Harry Potter kid in these books I was reading around that time…
I don’t quite love the Harry Potter films as much as I used to. I still like them a great deal and I still drop whatever it is I’m doing to sit down for one of those all too frequent ABC Family Potter marathons like any self-respecting Millennial but they always fell short of true greatness. That being said, Rickman was one of a handful of Potter actors who were so perfect that “perfect” feels inadequate. Along with Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonnagall, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as the superior Albus Dumbledore 1.0, Rickman’s Snape was the closest any literary character has come to stepping right off the page and coming to life onscreen. It can’t be overstated how much these actors, and Rickman in particular, elevated the Potter flicks.
And of course, there’s that other huge role of his. I first watched Die Hard when I was 12-years-old (the perfect age for a first time viewing of that movie) and when Hans Gruber first appeared on screen, the first words out of my mouth were “Hey mom, Snape is in Die Hard!”
Speaking of Snape, I don’t think I can put into words how huge Rickman’s impact has been on the HP generation. During rereads of the series, it is impossible to not hear his iconic, cutting delivery whenever Snape speaks. I don’t mean to brush aside Rickman’s near 40 years of film, TV and theater roles but that is a hell of an achievement. I’ve never been a member of the Team Snape sub-fandom in the HP community (some of those “always” tributes are already making me cringe) and I likely never will be. But I can also say that I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, any discouraging words to say about Rickman’s masterful performance as the divisive potions master. The guy was too damn great to dismiss.
Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, may you sit on a beach earning 20 percent while bottling fame, brewing glory and putting a stopper on death.