Cancer has been busy in the pop cultural world in the first couple weeks of 2016. Stage and Movie star (and all around silky-voiced villain) Alan Rickman has succumbed to a battle with cancer at aged 69.
Depending on your age (and geographical location) you might know the man as Hans Gruber from action-classic Die Hard, where he portrayed one of the most memorable, Plutarch quoting, baddies of the screen (“And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”)
If you are of the younger set, then perhaps you remember him as the shifty Hogwarts teacher, Snape, from the Harry Potter films.
But this only scratches the surface from a quirky and varied acting career that spanned arthouse ghost stories, like Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply, often cited as “Ghost” for grown-ups, where Rickman picked up a BAFTA. Also in idiosyncratic comedies such as The January Man (with Kevin Kline), savage political satire Bob Roberts, and Kevin Smith’s Catholicism-with-poop-jokes road trip, Dogma. He also completely stole the show from Kevin Costner playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the big Hollywood blockbuster version of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves in the early 1990s. So much so that there was a long-standing rumour that the film had to be re-cut to minimize Rickman’s screen-time for fears of him undermining the straight-laced and boring star of the film with his exceptional scenery chewing. (See also, Aussie western Quigley Down Under.)
Lastly his exceptional voice was often used in to full effect when the actor wasn’t on screen, such as Marvin in the (underrated) film adaptation of The Hitchhicker’s Guide To the Galaxy, Absolem the Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland films (the later of which, Alice Through The Looking Glass will be his cinema performance.)
And this is to say nothing of his extensive stage work.
For those of us who like going to the movies, Rickman will always be treasured as one who can intimidate quietly, with the power of his voice, and a pointed look of derision. There are few, if any greater examples of instantly recognizable screen presence and haughty attitude (with a soft underbelly) working today. Actors like David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch who followed in his wake will have to carry the torch from here on out.