Happy Birthday Alan Rickman: Relive His Most Iconic Film Roles

by Clayton Edwards

Alan Rickman was an incredible actor. Rickman’s villainous roles made him famous. However, he could step into nearly any character and make it his own. His striking features and relaxed line delivery made him instantly recognizable in just about any role. He passed away in 2016 and left a void in the world of cinema that will never be filled.

Today, Alan Rickman would have been 75 years old. To celebrate his birthday, we’re looking back at some of his most iconic roles.

Alan Rickman Was A Shakespearean Actor First

Before we get into his film roles, it’s important to look at where he started. Alan Rickman started his career on the stage. The English actor attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He then went on to work extensively with several different acting troupes.

No one could deny Alan Rickman’s talent. His roles kept getting bigger. In 1978 he played Tybalt in a BBC adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.” This was his television debut. It would still be years before he crossed over into film, though.

His breakout stage role came in the form of the male lead in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Playwright Christopher Hampton adapted the play from the 18th century French novel of the same name. He developed the play with Alan Rickman in mind, according to Biography.

The play ran in London and later moved to Broadway. Rickman earned several award nominations for his role. Soon, he would make his feature film debut.

Hans Gruber – “Die Hard”

Alan Rickman introduced himself to moviegoers with the role of the German terrorist in the world’s greatest Christmas movie, “Die Hard.” The role showed off his acting talent as well as his prowess for playing the villain. He was the perfect foil for Bruce Willis’ John McClane.

Rickman made the terrorist both suave and evil. He was almost likable. Gruber was witty and laid back even in tense situations. When he shared scenes with McClane, the chemistry was undeniable.

Alan Rickman once said that he only got the role because he didn’t charge much. The studio paid Willis millions of dollars. So, they had to cut corners elsewhere. However, it is hard to think of anyone else playing Hans Gruber.

Fun Fact About the Role

In the scene where McClane drops Hans Gruber from the window, the fear in Alan Rickman’s eyes is real.

The director told Rickman they would count to three and drop him. However, they dropped him on the count of one. He wasn’t ready for the fall yet. So, the surprised look on his face is genuine.

The Sheriff of Nottingham Cements Alan Rickman as a Villain- “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”

The Sheriff of Nottingham is one of the most iconic villains in literary history. Nearly everyone is familiar with one iteration of this character or another. Alan Rickman brought him to life against Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood in the 1991 film adaptation of the classic story.

Hans Gruber introduced Rickman to moviegoers. He had a handful of successful roles after that film. Then he took the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. This role cemented him as an actor who could nail the role of the villain which would lead to several roles in the future. However, Rickman disliked being typecast as the villain. He felt that he brought more nuance to a role and that boiling them down to to one word was a bit insulting. On this, he said, “…It doesn’t matter what I’m playing: it’s not one word, and I think any actor would say the same.”

Professor Severus Snape – The “Harry Potter” Series

Alan Rickman brought Severus Snape to life in a big way. Over the course of the “Harry Potter” film series, Snape became one of the vilest yet most nuanced villains in modern cinema. In fact, there is a large population of the Harry Potter fandom who argue that Snape wasn’t that bad of a guy. He did, however, do some pretty awful things. At the end of the day, Severus Snape was an evil man plagued with issues. At times, his actions were well-intentioned. His villainy could not be denied, though.

This film series is huge and its fanbase covers several generations. New people of all ages are discovering the series every day. So, the role of Snape will have the effect of endearing Rickman to fans for years to come. He isn’t just a well-written and nuanced villain. Rickman gives a powerhouse performance in all eight films. Hans Gruber was his introduction. The Sheriff of Nottingham cemented him as a villain. Severus Snape will play a hand in keeping Rickman’s legacy alive for years to come.

Alan Rickman Plays an Angel – “Dogma”

Moviegoers may know Alan Rickman for his villainous roles but he did so much more than that. In fact, my personal favorite Rickman performance sees him taking on the role of an angel. In “Dogma,” he plays Metatron, The Voice of God.

Some NSFW language but a great performance from Rickman

“Dogma” is a dark satirical comedy that deals with faith, the human condition, and the end of the world. It’s like “The DiVinci Code” but funnier. Rickman injects dry wit into his role as the voice of the Almighty. At the same time, he shows off his dramatic chops. The character is perfectly balanced and can be hilarious one moment and seamlessly move into being a loving mentor in the next. “Dogma” is a great movie and Rickman’s performance elevates it far beyond what it would have been without him

Fun Fact About the Role

“Dogma” is an independent film. Kevin Smith wrote and directed it. He and Jason Mewes reprised their roles of Jay and Silent Bob for the film. The pair were used to making films with independent actors. They could play things fairly fast and loose in most of their productions. However, this one was different. They had serious Hollywood talent in the cast. With that in mind, Smith told his long-time friend Jason Mewes that he had to bring his A-game. Smith told him that he couldn’t screw up because of the talent in the cast. Chief among them was Alan Rickman. Smith didn’t want to make a bad impression on the veteran actor. At the same time, Mewes was just getting clean after years of heroin addiction. He hadn’t always been the most reliable guy.

So, when Jason Mewes showed up to the table read for “Dogma” without his script, Smith was furious. When he asked Jason where his script was he replied, “Don’t need one.” Smith lost it. However, after some quizzing Mewes proved that he had memorized all of the dialog from the script. Not just his lines. He knew everyone’s lines. When Kevin Smith asked him what on Earth possessed him to memorize the entire script, Jason Mewes said, “I don’t want to p-ss off that Rickman dude.”

So, not only did Alan Rickman elevate the film but he also pushed Mewes to work harder at his craft. That’s the kind of power that Rickman carried. He was the real deal. He may have been one of the best actors this era of cinema ever saw. Now that’s something to celebrate.