A Birthday Salute to Alan Rickman

At the beginning of his career, Rickman played Tybalt in a 1978 TV movie of "Romeo and Juliet"

At the beginning of his career, Rickman played Tybalt in a 1978 TV movie of “Romeo and Juliet”

Tomorrow, February 21, is Alan Rickman’s birthday. He will be 68 years of age.

Bio (via imdb.com) Alan Rickman was born on a council estate in Acton, West London, to Margaret Doreen Rose (Bartlett) and Bernard Rickman, who worked at a factory. He has English, Irish, and Welsh ancestry. Alan has an older brother David, a younger brother Michael and a younger sister Sheila. When Alan was 8 years old, his father died. He attended Latymer Upper School on a scholarship. He studied Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design, where he met Rima Horton, who would later become his life partner. After three years at Chelsea College, Rickman did graduate studies at the Royal College of Art. He opened a successful graphics design business, Graphiti, with friends and ran it for several years before his love of theatre led him to seek an audition with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). At the relatively late age of 26, Rickman received a scholarship to RADA, which started a professional acting career that has lasted nearly 40 years, with no signs of stopping, a career which has spanned stage, screen and television and has lapped over into directing, as well.

Rickman first came to the attention of American audiences as “Vicomte de Valmont” in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” on Broadway in 1987. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the role. Denied the role in the film version of the show, Rickman instead made his first movie appearance opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988) as the villain, “Hans Gruber.” Rickman’s take on the urbane villain set the standard for screen villains for decades to come. Though often cited as being a master of playing villains, Rickman has actually played a wide variety of characters, such as the romantic cello-playing ghost “Jamie” in Anthony Minghella’s Truly Madly Deeply (1990) and the noble Colonel Brandon of Sense and Sensibility (1995). He’s treated audiences to his comedic abilities with films like Dogma (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), and roles like “Dr. Alfred Blalock” in Something the Lord Made (2004) and “Alex Hughes” in Snow Cake (2006), showcase his ability to play ordinary men in extraordinary situations. Rickman even conquered the daunting task of singing a part in a Stephen Sondheim musical as he took on the part of “Judge Turpin” in the movie adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

In 2001, Rickman introduced himself to a whole new, and younger, generation of fans by taking on the role of “Severus Snape” in the movie versions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). He has continued to play the role through the eighth and last movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011).

In 1982, Rickman portrayed Obadiah Slope in "The Barchester Chronicles."

In 1982, Rickman portrayed Obadiah Slope in “The Barchester Chronicles.”

In 1990, Rickman played Elliott Marston in "Quigley Down Under."

In 1990, Rickman played Elliott Marston in “Quigley Down Under.”

(1994) Rickman starred in a biography of the eighteenth century Viennese physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, who used unorthodox healing practices based on his theory of "animal magnetism."

(1994) Rickman starred in a biography of the eighteenth century Viennese physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, who used unorthodox healing practices based on his theory of “animal magnetism.”

In 1991, Rickman took on the role of the vile Sheriff George of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."

In 1991, Rickman took on the role of the vile Sheriff George of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

Rickman took on the role of Colonel Brandon in 1995's "Sense and Sensibility."

Rickman took on the role of Colonel Brandon in 1995’s “Sense and Sensibility.”

In 1996, he was Rasputin in the TV movie by the same name.

In 1996, he was Rasputin in the TV movie by the same name.

Rickman has been Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series of films.

Rickman has been Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series of films.

In 2008, he took on the role of Steven Spurrier in "Bottle Shock."

In 2008, he took on the role of Steven Spurrier in “Bottle Shock.”

In 2014, he took on the role of King Louis XIV in "A Little Chaos."

In 2014, he took on the role of King Louis XIV in “A Little Chaos.”

Do you have a favorite Alan Rickman film or tidbit to share? Add it to the comments below.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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20 Responses to A Birthday Salute to Alan Rickman

  1. Susan Abernethy says:

    Two of my favorites with Alan: “Truly Madly Deeply” and the made for HBO movie “Something the Lord Made”.

  2. carolcork says:

    Regina, you have taken me back a good many years. I remember Alan Rickman playing the smarmy, sinister chaplain, Obadiah Slope, in the BBC serialisation of The Barchester Chronicles.

  3. joanr12 says:

    “Truly Madly Deeply” is one of my absolute favorite movies. I am hoping that it will be available to buy on DVD sometime in the near future. Alan was amazing in his role as he was in his role in Die Hard. Looking forward to seeing him in some of the other movies that you mentioned Regina.

  4. I am ashamed to admit that I never knew this mans name until reading this post, I rarely if ever go to the movies and my TV viewing is so little it’s not worth mentioning I have however seen this man perform on occasions and his performances have always struck me as being top class. He doesn’t seem the type of man and actor to be ‘pushie’; looking for publicity, a very workmanlike performer who does his job well gets paid and goes away. After reading this profile I am deeply ashamed he deserves more. 😦

    • My TV is on, but usually for background noise. I rarely watch it. The pleasure of living alone.
      As to Rickman, he is one of those classic actors who can play a variety of roles. Unfortunately, in today’s media, we seek only the “beautiful” faces to grace our screens.

  5. To digress from Mr. Rickman, you mentioned Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber, I grew up firmly believing that he was real and that if I was bad he would come and get me and serve me up in one of his pies. The origianal ‘Bogeyman’. My mother has much to answer for! πŸ˜›
    In Cockney slang his name came to represent something entirely different; being an Anglophile Regina you are probably familiar with an old BBC program ” The Sweeney” The Sweeney refers of course to the ‘Old Bill’s’; rapid response mobile police of the past whose correct ‘Monica’ was The Flying Squad aka “Sweeney Todd” – “the Sweeney” πŸ™„

    • My book, “The Phantom of Pemberley,” Brian, incorporates a bit to the legend of The Shadow Man and that of The Black Dog.
      I am familiar with the 1970s TV series. As a media literacy consultant, I found the idea that the entire series was filmed on 16mm film most interesting. Of course, the scandal of the real life Flying Squad in the 70s kept the series in the know. I should do a post on this one. It had slipped my mind.
      Did you know there was a 2012 film based on the TV series? It starred Ray Winstone and one of my favorites, Hayley Atwell.

      • No Regina I did not know, I don’t go to the movies anymore; I got sick of violence being served up as entertainment, and the use of foul language even in so called love story movies that I don’t even look to see what’s on anymore. I used to enjoy going to the movies and coming away feeling good but it’s now not possible.

      • I agree, Brian. I just saw “Kingsman” with Colin Firth last week, and I was tired of hearing the “F” word used so often. Loved the film, but not the language.

      • It makes me wonder if actors and actresses of Mr Firth’s calibre actually use that language normally, I’d hate to think of Mr Darcy as using it as a matter of course. I’m sure Miss Ehle doesn’t. I know Ms Darcy wouldn’t, but then you never know these days. The “script” might demand it of them as the saying goes, which is a load of codswallop!

  6. JC Booker says:

    Thank you for such a nice article. Mr Rickman is the greatest!!

  7. Anji says:

    Thanks for reminding us of some of the great performances that Mr. Rickman has given us over the yars, Regina.

    Galaxy Quest has to be one of my all time favourite films and Alan Rickman playing the Shakespearean-trained British actor playing the quasi-reptilian Dr. Lazarus was just brilliant. His over-the-top pantomime villain Sheriff of Nottingham was the best thing in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I know it’s possibly sacrilege, but I do prefer David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon. Nothing wrong with Mr. Rickman’s performance, there rarely is, but I thought he was too old for the part (late forties at the time) whereas Mr. Morrissey, although still somewhat overage, was closer in actual age. I’d forgotten all about Quigley Down Under (recorded it on to VHS from the TV many years ago) and have to confess that I’ve never seen Truly, Madly, Deeply.

    A film of Mr. Rickman’s that rarely gets mentioned is The January Man from the late 80s, just after Die Hard. It’s a somewhat flawed film about the hunt for a serial killer in which he plays an artist-cum-computer geek, helping out Kevin Kline’s leading man police officer. Alan Rickman again is the best thing in the film.

    When I heard that the Harry Potter books were going to be filmed, there were two characters where I could only see particular actors playing them; one was Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagle, the other, of course, was Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. I was delighted to be proved right!

    • Anji, the moment Rickman delivered these lines in Sense and Sensibility, I finally saw him as Colonel Brandon.
      Colonel Brandon: What can I do?
      Elinor Dashwood: Colonel, you have done so much already…
      Colonel Brandon: Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.
      He captured my heart at that moment.

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