When I was living in Brooklyn, I learned that Alan Rickman was undertaking the title role on stage at the BAM, in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman”. Although my entire exposure to Ibsen consisted of a few plays in high school, it was enough to put me off for life (I loathed “A Doll’s House” with a passion that my friends still tease me about).
But I didn’t think I could pass up the opportunity to see Rickman in person–for over an hour–and not get slapped with a restraining order. Too good to be true! I was dirt poor, barely making my rent, eating ramen for 3 meals a day, and living in a ghetto part of Flatbush. But dammit! This is what I came to New York for! This is why I was carving out a meager existence, to live and work alongside greatness!
And when I realized that he was to share the stage with Fiona Shaw, the fangirl in me squeed to death! Severus Snape and Petunia Dursley live! Ibsen or no Ibsen, I was going to see that play.
I scraped, cobbled, and pinched together my $40 bucks for some nosebleed seats and dragged along a friend who though not a Potter fan, was certainly a Col. Brandon lover. And then sat there in the dark breathing deeply while thinking, Ermgah, Alan Rickman and I are breathing the same air! Which is more or less where my mind wandered whenever Ibsen’s pedantic character monologues threatened to strangle someone (usually Rickman, alas). (For anyone who cares about a critical review of the play, I agree that vulture.com’s review on it is spot-on.)
Seeing him in the flesh made me have a much greater appreciation for his past roles and wonder deeper; just what is it about him that garners so many female fans?
Empire Online recently ranked him 8 out of top 50 sexiest movie stars (reader’s choice), which is pretty incredible for a man with rather average looks over the age of 50. In fact, he was only beaten out by such perennial favorites as Clooney, Pitt, and Depp. I like how they described “Rickman’s rogues'” as being “united by the fact that they’re all strangely, unjustifiably sexy.” This is just it. Unjustifiably sexy. You can’t really put a finger on why it is. I only know that I feel more sex appeal in his performances than almost anything put out by stars half his age and twice as good looking. And usually he isn’t even playing a romantic protagonist.
To me, that’s talent. His acting is so nuanced that he’s able to glamour us mortals into thinking he’s smoking hot man meat, when anyone with an objective eye can tell you otherwise.
If you are interested in a light overview of his career, BBCA has a great article called Best of Alan Rickman, where it introduced me to the following gems;
1978 guys. Dang! My initial reaction was to get way too excited about the fact that this is what Snape would look like in Harry’s first or second year (minus the bowl cut), had Rickman been the same age as portrayed in the books (yes, it always comes back to Harry Potter), Secondly, he looks quite young for being 32, and I was thrown off by the fact that he kind of looks like a baby but has the same voice! It made me think about how he probably spoke that way even as a late teen.
I am wondering if that voice paired with his Spock-like face probably didn’t work in his favor, romantically speaking, at a young age. One fan writes about his characters; “He’s the handsome bad boy you just know you could fix, he’s the sensitive guy who’s overlooked, he’s the under-appreciated fellow you suddenly realize has been there all along, he’s the one you let get away.” And I think there’s a lot of truth in that, perhaps because he’s drawing on his earliest experiences. Mere conjecture on my part, but one can’t help but compare how he was clearly not cast as the charming and classically beautiful Mercutio or Romeo, but as the foil, Tybalt. I like to think that he plays such beautifully underestimated, underdog, and subtle characters because he was one at one point.
And while we’re on the subject of looks, I think it’s fair to say that in Rickman’s case, his features softened somewhat into a more conventionally handsome appeal as he grew older. I think of him in Die Hard and Sense and Sensibillity; yes, middle age was quite kind to him. Rather unfair when you think about it for women. How many women do you know actually reach their peak in looks once they’re nearly 50?
Since I am a recent fan and have really only seen his latest work, it’s evident how much he has grown as an actor when you look at him here. There is a work-in-progress feel about his expressions and inflections; you can see the bare bones of what he has evolved into today. A highly fascinating clip.
The second piece that interested me was this compilation of scenes from his role as Obadiah Slope in the Barchester Chronicles.
I clicked play, barely even registering what show or movie this came from, and by the time I finished I was hooked! I had to see more! If this isn’t proto-Snape I don’t know what is–down to the vestibule like costuming! Sometime soon I’m going to order the miniseries and do a complete viewing. I’m pretty excited.
It’s really appalling how this man hasn’t earned a single Oscar. Kind of sickening, actually. Fuel the rage with this article detailing his snubs.
Oh Mr. Rickman! I know you hate how the role of Snape constantly threatens to overshadow your past and present work, but your moving portrayal of him is precisely what garnered you new fans; ones that may take a more serious look at your other pieces once we’re done drowning our feels in Firewhisky. So try not to hate us too much!