Monday Morning Critic – From Hans Gruber to Snape: a Reflection On The Career of The People’s Actor, Alan Rickman

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Alan Rickman is gone. It’s odd to think that Rickman died in the same 30 day span that also claimed Lemmy from Motorhead and David Bowie as well. Rickman, Bowie and Lemmy all were guys you assumed would be immortal. A world without Bowie making music, Lemmy doing interviews at strip clubs and Rickman always seeming to be perfectly cast in any movie feels like one I don’t want to live in sometimes. Alas the beauty of cinema is that Rickman’s best roles will always be available for us to examine and marvel at for generations to come.

And I think when we look back at Rickman, who never won (much less was nominated for) an Academy Award and was always on the outside looking in. Yet there never was a film he was in that people pointed out that he was a weak point; Rickman was always a guy that was a high point of bad film, a strong point of great film and amazing films always felt better with his presence. It’s why I’ve always called him “The People’s Actor” in that he’s always been that guy people love but never really got rewarded with hardware over the length of his career.

Hans Gruber

In a way I think it’s better that way because his roles will always belong to us, the audience, and no one else. Rickman never lobbied for awards, never took a role because it was Oscar bait and always seemed to be pursuing his craft first and money, fame and mantle pieces last. Hell he even sang for the film version of Sweeney Todd and everyone was shocked because he absolutely nailed it. There was never a bad Rickman performance and he never mailed it in, either.

He was an actor’s actor and his film library is one that’s kind of amazing. His peers adored him, as evidenced by the outpouring of love for him following his passing, and you could tell that every role he took was something he wanted to explore. Rickman managed to be the one actor who wasn’t embarrassing in a painfully obvious stunt casting as Ronald Reagan in The Butler. He always managed to keep his dignity even when the films he was in managed to lose their’s.

Even a silly film about wine like Bottle Shock had one of the great lines of the year because Rickman killed it in a film that was much better for his presence alone. Very few people watched the film; I saw it in theatres but there isn’t a huge audience for films about the “Judgment of Paris.” Wine history isn’t burning up the airwaves … yet Rickman’s presence alone makes this a film worthy of seeking out.

Hans Gruber is the singular greatest villain in action film history and one the best genre performances ever. It’s not even close. Rickman may have received nothing but fanboy love for it but Gruber influenced every villain since he played a German terrorist. Without Rickman being passed over there wouldn’t have been a groundswell of support that carried Heath Ledger to an Oscar for The Dark Knight. Ledger’s death was the biggest push but his win was a win for every great genre villain that was overlooked because it wasn’t the proper type of film.

Die Hard is an insanely quotable film in part because of Rickman. While Bruce Willis has tons of great lines, Rickman has enough that it’s close. It’s part of why the film is so great; without Rickman just destroying it all movie long it’s a great film that doesn’t have a final gear. Rickman is that final gear that takes an immaculately plotted film that hits every note perfectly and brings it up to the level of being an all-time classic. It’s a classic film and without Rickman in it Die Hard is a forgettable action film. Rickman is the glue that holds Die Hard together.

Rickman’s resume is filled with great roles but little hardware and what he has remaining most likely won’t get him a posthumous nomination. But for some reason that feels appropriate; he was never an actor looking for something to take home, just something to leave the rest of us.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The 5th Wave – Aliens invade … it’s up to teenagers to lead the fight back!

Skip it – Aliens invade. Stupidity happens and let’s be honest. This is an adult novel version of Red Dawn.

The Boy – A puppet kills people.

Skip it – Horror films released in January are always terrible.

Dirty Grandpa – Zach Efron goes to spring break with Robert De Niro.

See it – De Niro kind of embracing the comedy and being an old asshole is kind of interesting on the surface. Odds are this will be terrible but I’ll posit that the concept is intriguing on a couple levels.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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