This is the third post this week related to someone’s passing. I hope it is the last for a while……
To this day, no other Die Hard villain has come close to Hans Gruber. The most wicked incarnation of the Sheriff of Nottingham stole Kevin Costner’s thunder. Severus Snape in film is one of the few instances where an actor upstages the book version of a character (and not just any character but one of the most complete and fleshed out characters I've ever had the pleasure to read). In his role as Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, he was also magnificently awful.
But while thinking of other villainous roles, I remembered his painfully human role as Harry in Love Actually and how much I laughed with his performance as Alexander/Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest. Which goes to show that he could have been any role he wanted and that I’m probably missing out on countless movies that show off a whole other aspect of him as an actor.
This is a testament to talent as much as full commitment to craft.
Here’s the thing, if you see a photograph of Alan Rickman, you see that his face was actually quite kind. He had a genuine smile and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he was a warm guy liked by many. But when he embodied these characters… it went beyond acting… he metamorphosed to frighten and revile as much as he delighted.
Look at any list of top film villains of all time and you will see his roles. The magic to me comes from his voice… his cadence, his inflection. It was an incomparable vehicle rivaled by very few actors and although he was brilliant as Snape, Hans is the perfect example of the power of his voice in the delivery of a line. Case in point, “Shoot the Glass.” Although there's also the power in the way he could spit out the name Potter.
He also showed that you really don’t need to scream to get your point across. Actually, screaming deflates many things we have to say… and he played this to his advantage. seeing his delivery, you would think that he loved to read, because he loved to linger on syllables and knew how to make love to a word before unleashing it on the viewer.
Then there were those eyes. Eyes that could be as cold as a shark’s eyes, inching their gaze across the vast nose that added to his menace. The same eyes that could show human fragility and make you laugh out loud.
The best actors really do stay with you long after you see a movie and today we celebrate the passing of another brilliant performer. As we watch the credits of his life roll, I’m certain of two things:
His performance will stay with us long after they finish
And quite often, he stole the show.