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Best of Alan Rickman: From ‘Blow Dry’ to ‘Bottle Shock’ to Severus Snape
We conclude our look back at the career of 2011 fan favorite Alan Rickman with his roles from the past decade. As in his fine ’90s run, there is tremendous diversity here, but one particular portrayal looms larger than the others.
There’s the little-seen 2001 comedy Blow Dry, written by Slumdog Millionaire‘s Simon Beaufoy, which features Rickman as a competitive hair stylist whose wife (the late Natasha Richardson) has left him for another woman (Six Feet Under‘s Rachel Griffiths). The movie was largely savaged by critics – its bizarre cast includes Josh Hartnett, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Heidi Klum – but Rickman received decent notices. And he is quite alluring in scenes like this:
Many Rickmaniacs have applauded his title role in 2001’s transatlantic farce The Search for John Gissing co-starring Mike Binder (who also wrote and directed) and Janeane Garofalo.
Rickman had more success in 2003’s Love Actually, the beloved ensemble rom-com in which he plays an exec tempted married to a loving wife (Emma Thompson) but tempted into adultery by his hot-to-trot secretary. The scene below, in which he attempts to surreptitiously buy his secretary a necklace while out shopping with his wife, is one of the film’s funniest moments. (Thanks partially to Rowan Atkinson, who plays a salesman who won’t make things easy for Rickman.)
Rickman mastered a Southern U.S. accent to play real-life cardiac surgeon Alfred Blalock in the 2004 HBO film Something the Lord Made, which charts Blalock’s longtime working relationship with a gifted but unsung black surgeon (Mos Def) during the Jim Crow era. Lee writes about Rickman’s Emmy-nominated performances, “[It was] incredible to watch this Englishman play the real American doctor who helped pioneer open-heart surgery in the mid-20th century so convincingly. Alan does not fail to deliver in such a demanding and different role, I was so impressed by him in this.”
In 2006’s Snow Cake, Rickman portrays a guilt-stricken man who befriends an autistic woman (Sigourney Weaver) after he’s involved in a car accident that kills her daughter. Kim writes, “As Alex Hughes, or Mr. Shifty as Carrie-Anne Moss calls him in the movie, Rickman plays a truly vulnerable man who is out of his depth emotionally in a foreign land, weighed down by the mistakes of his past… It was a restrained and understated performance that made the movie a true slice-of-life tale, and one in which I observed his sheer ability to perform and convey, almost effortlessly, the most complex human emotions.”
Alan Rickman added another baddie to his resume with Judge Turpin, antagonist of Johnny Depp‘s title character in Tim Burton‘s 2007 adaptation of the musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Slate‘s Dana Stevens calls Rickman “marvelous as ever” in the 2008 comedy Bottle Shock, in which he plays a British expat sommelier living in Paris who outsmarts French wine snobs with a blind tasting contest, pitting homegrown wines against “lesser” Napa Valley ones. “Rickman…balances his character’s priggishness with curiosity and a barely hidden streak of hedonism,” Stevens writes.
However, it’s Rickman’s role as Severus Snape, the grim, gothic, fearsome Hogwarts professor who taunts and tortures young Harry Potter, that has provoked the greatest notices of his entire career. The character begins in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as a generally menacing figure, but through Rickman’s nuanced work, he develops more shading and depth over the series. So much so that Rickman’s revelatory performance in the film’s final installment, this past summer’s Deathly Hallows Part 2, could bring him the Oscar nomination that has thus far eluded him.
Elle writes, “Nothing about him was ever just black or white and when the truth came out, it killed me again and again and again. From the first glimpse of him in Deathly Hallows Part 2, I had cold shivers running down my spine, because Alan conveyed every little piece of conflict and pain and love of this brave man in a simple moment of silence.”
Rickman has continued to stretch himself in varied roles, both on stage and screen. He reunited with his Les Liaisons Dangereuses co-star Lindsay Duncan in Ibsen‘s John Gabriel Borkman, which was produced on stage in Dublin in 2010 before moving to New York’s BAM earlier this year. Here’s a clip from the Dublin production:
I leave with another rare find I stumbled upon: Rickman and Duncan re-enacting a scene from Liaisons at the 1987 Tony awards. Yes, that’s Mary Tyler Moore introducing them.
In 2012, Rickman will join Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz in a remake of the Michael Caine caper, Gambit. What sort of role would you like to see Rickman tackle next?