Alan Rickman , born February 21, 1946 in London and died January 14, 2016 in the same city, is a British actor, director and director.
A former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he became known on stage for his role as the Viscount de Valmont in Les Liaisons dangereuses (1985). He met with success in the cinema from Crystal Trap in 1988, but his worldwide fame is mainly due to his interpretation of the enigmatic Professor Snape in the Harry Potter saga, from 2001 to 2011. He is also known for his leading roles as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1992), Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee”s Reason and Sentiments (1995), or Harry in Love Actually opposite Emma Thompson.
In 1997, he directed the film The Winter Guest, for which he was also the screenwriter, and in 2014 he directed The King”s Gardens. In parallel with his film career, he appeared in numerous theatrical productions and became a director, in the West End of London as well as on Broadway.
Her voice is unique in the contemporary film landscape. Described by actress Helen Mirren as “suggestive of both the sweetness of honey and the concealed blade of a stiletto,” it has been recognized as one of the most perfect in the human repertoire, combining an “ideal” blend of tone, speed, frequency and intonation.
He died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 69 on January 14, 2016, his last film appearance being as the original voice of the Caterpillar (or Absolem) in Alice Through the Looking Glass. The British newspaper The Guardian mentioned him as one of the great actors who have never been nominated for an Oscar, although he won many film awards during his career.
Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman was born on February 21, 1946 in Hammersmith, London to an Irish father, Bernard Rickman, and a Welsh mother, Margaret Doreen Rose, née Bartlett. His father was a factory worker and his mother a housewife. He is the second of a family of four children: David Rickman born in 1944, a graphic designer, Michael born in 1947, a tennis coach, and Sheila Innes, a clinical researcher born in 1949. His father died of lung cancer when he was only eight years old. His mother, also a soprano singer, worked hard to support her children. “She was a tigress; she could do anything,” Alan Rickman later said. She died in 1997.
Thanks to his excellent results at Derwentwater Primary School, where he had been attending since the age of 5, Alan Rickman was awarded a scholarship to Latymer Upper School at the age of 11, where he would study until he was 18. The school maintains a progressive education and a strong tradition of theater, introducing him to acting during his school years. He got his very first role at the age of 7 in the play King Grizzly Bear, for which his mother made him a piece of cloth taped to his chin to make a beard.
When he was a child, he suffered from speech problems: his lower jaw was very narrow, making his pronunciation indistinct and muffled. This lower jaw gave him a very recognizable voice.
Training and early career in theater
Despite a real interest in drama (he acted in many plays as part of his secondary education), he trained as a graphic designer at Chelsea College of Art and Design between 1965 and 1968. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Art for a year before leaving to found, with other young students, a graphic design company: Grafiti, of which he is the artistic director.
Rickman took the plunge at the age of 25 and auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, auditioning twice for an excerpt from Richard III before being awarded a scholarship to attend. After graduating, he attended several professional companies and tried his hand at musical theatre in 1975 with the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester.
In 1978, Rickman joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Dissatisfied, he criticized the company in 1998, because, according to him, it had neglected young talent.
1980s: towards success in the theater and then in the cinema
In 1985, Rickman joined the Royal Shakespeare Company again. In the stage adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, Rickman plays the infamous Vicomte de Valmont. The production team of the American action film Die Hard discovered him on the stage and gave him his first film role, alongside Bruce Willis, at the age of 41. He played the role of the bandit Hans Gruber, and his performance allowed him to slip to 46th place in the ranking of the 100 greatest villains of all time of the American Film Institute. During filming, the director asked Alan Rickman if he would perform the stunt required for his character”s final scene (Hans Gruber is filmed falling from a tower). Indeed, the scene required falling from a height of 12 meters and from behind, which was dangerous since the stuntmen must see where they land during a stunt. Alan Rickman agreed to do the scene, practicing falling higher and higher.
1990s: exploration of numerous cinematographic registers
Although he got several supporting roles after this success, his career spent a few years in the quiet until his performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves brought him the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1991. He refused in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves the role of the Sheriff of Notthingham twice. He finally accepted when he was assured that he would have carte blanche to interpret the character.
Thanks to his cinematic success, he was approached in 1995 to participate in the distribution of Reason and Sentiments, a film directed by Ang Lee and directly inspired by the novel by Jane Austen. The cast of this film featured some of the greatest British actors such as Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. His portrayal of Colonel Brandon allowed him to avoid being strictly pigeonholed into dark roles, and he was able to explore many other roles including a policeman in Judas Kiss, a Z actor in Galaxy Quest, a philandering husband in Love Actually, and even a hairdresser in Coup de Comb.
He took cello lessons for Truly Madly Deeply. In the scenes where we see his character playing, the hand holding the bow is his, the other being that of a real cellist, who was standing behind him.
Richard Curtis wanted Alan Rickman to play Charles in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The role eventually went to Hugh Grant.
He tried his hand at directing in 1997 with L”Invitée de l”hiver, an adaptation of the play of the same name, which he had already directed in 1995.
He is also the Master of Ceremonies of Tubular Bells II released in 1992. He also plays the list of instruments on the main track The Bell.
2000”s: access to an international reputation
For the first time since 1986, he plays from 2001 to 2002 in a play that is exported to Broadway after having been performed first at the Noel Coward Theatre and then in the West End in London: Private Lives. This new production of the famous 1930 comedy brings him back on stage with Lindsay Duncan. They won the Variety Club Award and the TheatreGoer”s Choice Award for “Best Performance in a Play”.
Alan Rickman”s popularity increases even more from 2001, thanks to his role of Severus Snape, professor of potions in the saga Harry Potter. A sarcastic, cold and ambiguous character who, throughout the story, becomes more and more important. He is a leading character and finally appreciated by the fans of the saga.
He was offered the role of Severus Snape in the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher”s Stone after Tim Roth turned down the offer to play in Planet of the Apes. However, Alan Rickman was the first choice of J. K. Rowling, the author of the novels.
Despite his success in the cinema, Alan Rickman does not neglect the theater and obtains a strong success in 2005 and 2006 for the direction of the play My name is Rachel Corrie and becomes, in 2003, the vice president of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
He lends his voice to Marvin, the depressive robot, in the 2005 film H2G2: The Galactic Traveler”s Guide.
In 2007, he played Judge Turpin in Tim Burton”s Sweeney Todd: The Evil Barber of Fleet Street, alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, then joined Burton again for Alice in Wonderland in 2009, while continuing to play his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter saga, to which he is attached and whose shooting ended for him in April 2010.
He then played in Snow Cake alongside Sigourney Weaver as an autistic mother, in 2006. Angela Pell, the screenwriter of Snow Cake, wrote the role of Alex Hughes with Alan Rickman in mind. In fact, on the original script, the character was named Alan. He was renamed Alex at Rickman”s request.
2010s: comedies and committed love stories
The success is reinforced when his new play, John Gabriel Borkman, where he plays the eponymous character, in performance between October and November 2010, in Dublin, Ireland, alongside Fiona Shaw and Lindsay Duncan. The play was then performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music between January and February 2011.
From November 2011 to April 1, 2012, he returns to Broadway, at the John Golden Theatre (en), for the first time since Private Lives for Seminar, a play directed by Sam Gold and written by Theresa Rebeck (en), a longtime friend of Alan Rickman whose texts he often corrects. The play tells the story of four young writers who hire a senior tutor to guide them, and he tells them the truth about their work with a violence they find difficult to accept. These students are played by young actors Hamish Linklater, Jerry O”Connell, Lily Rabe and Hettienne Park, young talents that Rickman says he adores.
In 2013, he reunited with Colin Firth in the comedy Gambit: English Scam where he played the role of a rich exibitionist collector.
In 2014, at the Toronto International Film Festival, he presented the second film he directed, Les Jardins Du Roi , A Little Chaos in its original title (“a little chaos”), starring Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts. The film is set in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV, who commissioned his gardener André le Nôtre to oversee the creation of the Gardens of Versailles. Le Nôtre chooses the plans of the protagonist Sabine de Barra, an untitled worker, to landscape the Bosquet de la Salle-de-Bal. This feminist rewriting of history by Alison Deegan, imagining a woman taking her place within the patriarchal milieu of the royal court, had a controversial reception. However, despite this very specific context, the director considers the film to be primarily a love story, questioning the audience about the ambivalent nature of relationships between men and women in sometimes cruel societies. In addition to directing the film, Alan Rickman plays the king for budgetary reasons. It is the first time he finds Kate Winslet in the cinema, after having played with her in Reasons and Feelings where she was 19 years old.
In December 2014, he was part of the international jury chaired by actress Isabelle Huppert, during the 14th Marrakech Festival.
In 2015, he shot his latest film Eye in the Sky, which also stars his friend Helen Mirren. This thriller looks at the moral issues raised by the use of drones against terrorism in the Sahel. The film was released after the death of the actor in 2016, and was very successful.
Alice Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to the first opus by Tim Burton, was released in 2016 paying tribute to the actor who recorded the voice of Absolem, the caterpillar that became a papillion.
In late August 2015, he suffered a minor stroke. Medical examinations soon after reveal that he is suffering from pancreatic cancer, which enters the terminal stage in December of the same year. His last public appearance was on December 7, 2015 in London, where he was seen at a performance of a play called Hangmen. He died in London on January 14, 2016, surrounded by his family and loved ones, at the age of 69. He bequeathed £100,000 in his will to four British charities to which he was close, £25,000 each: the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Sponsored Arts for Education, Saving faces (the Facial Surgery Research Foundation) and the International Performers Aid Trust.
Alan Rickman was married in 2012 in New York City to his partner Rima Horton, a politician and economics professor. They met in 1965 in an amateur theater group at Chelsea College of Art, but it was not until the early 1970s that they became a couple, and in 1977 they moved in together. They did not have any children.
“In the theater, you can show yourself as you really are, or you can hide. You can reveal things or keep them quiet. As a result, every identity in the audience may discover a truth about itself, or not understand it. I think the role of the actor is to make sure that the audience doesn”t leave the theater thinking simply, “That was good…where”s the car?”
– Alan Rickman, 1992.
Alan Rickman began writing a diary in the early 1990s, chronicling his career path and observations, with the intention of publishing it. This diary, kept until his death in 2016, will be published in autumn 2022 by Canongate.
For the French versions, Alan Rickman was dubbed most often by Claude Giraud, and notably in Michael Collins, the eight Harry Potter films and Sweeney Todd. He was also dubbed several times by Michel Papineschi between 1990 and 2015 (Galaxy Quest, Le Parfum, Les Jardins du roi and Eye in the Sky). His character of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves was first dubbed by Raymond Gerome in its first version in 1991, then by Daniel Beretta from 2003. François Dunoyer dubs the actor in Love Actually, while Pascal Renwick is the voice of his character Hans Gruber in Dieppe.
In Quebec, Alan Rickman is also dubbed by different actors. The most frequent are Daniel Picard for the Harry Potter series and Jacques Lavallée for Dogme and Plaisirs glacés. Vincent Davy doubles him in Robin Hood.