Before his passing in 2016, Alan Rickman made his mark on the film industry. His acting career started later in life but he still became a big star, playing many timeless characters who will always be remembered. He starred in plenty of roles, but he is best known for being able to play the villain perfectly with his chilling stare and baritone voice. However, off the set, he was very different from the malicious characters that he played. Keep reading to learn more about the admired actor who has touched the hearts of fans all over the world.
He Knew How Harry Potter Ends Before Anybody Else
If you’ve read or seen Harry Potter, you know the importance and depth of Severus Snape’s character in the story. Author J.K. Rowling revealed to Alan Rickman the true character of Severus Snape so that the actor could play the role correctly, and she told him where the story was going even before she had written it down, not later in the series. Rickman used his knowledge to guide the directors and told them, “I know something you don’t.” Amazingly, the actor managed not to reveal the secrets for all those years, which makes Snape among the most dynamic characters.
He Almost Declined To Play Hans Gruber
Alan Rickman nearly turned down the role of the villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the 1988 action film. Being in action films was just something he wasn’t interested in as he had already done British mini-series, such as The Barchester Chronicles (1982) and Summer Season (1985). However, he ended up accepting the part after he read the script and found it rather clever. It’s a good thing that he did as the role became one of the most iconic in his career. In addition, he wasn’t afraid to make suggestions either, and he convinced the producers that it is better for Gruber to wear a suit instead of tactical gear.
His First Feature Film Was Die Hard
He had acted in theater and television before, but Die Hard was actually Alan Rickman’s first feature film. This is quite interesting considering he stole the show. Actor Sam Neill was, in fact, approached first for the role of Hans Gruber but he turned down the offer, so the crew needed to think of a different strategy to cast their villain. The casting director watched Dangerous Liaisons on Broadway in the spring of 1987, saw Rickman’s take on the reprehensible Valmon, and knew the actor was perfect for Hans Gruber. Rickman’s performance in Die Hard is pretty awesome, and you definitely cannot tell it was his big screen debut.
He And His Wife Had Been Together For 50 Years Before They Got Married
While studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design, 19-year-old Alan Rickman met 18-year-old Rima Horton, who became his future wife, in 1965. Rickman was an actor, whereas Horton was a Kingston University economics lecturer and was elected to the Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council. The two were a couple for the next five decades and in 2012, they finally tied the knot in a private ceremony held in New York. According to Rickman, his wife is “incredibly tolerant. Possibly a candidate for sainthood.”
Science Says His Voice Is Perfect
In 2008, sound engineer Shannon Harris and linguist Andrew Linn set out to learn what the “perfect” human voice is made of. Voice samples from 50 people were analyzed, and the results revealed that the perfect male voice is a combination of Rickman’s voice and that of fellow actor Jeremy Irons. This is no surprise considering that Rickman’s voice and his acting abilities make him truly effective in whatever role he plays. Commenting on his voice, actress Helen Mirren said, “He was utterly distinctive, with a voice that could suggest honey or a hidden stiletto blade.”
He Was Really Dropped While Filming Die Hard
One of Die Hard’s most memorable scenes is Hans Gruber plummeting to his death after getting dropped from Nakatomi Plaza. This scene is pretty epic thanks to the shock and horror that can be seen on Gruber’s face when he first starts to fall. Some people may call this good acting, but his reaction is really convincing because it’s partly genuine. Rickman insisted on doing the stunt. The plan was to count to three, and then he would be dropped from 25 feet. However, director John McTiernan wanted authenticity, so he had Rickman dropped on the count of two, invoking real shock from the actor.
He Was A Graphic Designer Before He Became An Actor
As a teenager, Alan Rickman did show interest in drama, but his first career was in the art field. At Chelsea College, he studied graphic design and then he attended the Royal College of Art for graduate classes. After school, he and some of his friends started a graphic design company they called Graphitti, which Rickman said was a “1970s fantasy now.” He also said it was “A constant financial tightrope. It came to a natural finish when I started to work in fringe theater and then went to RADA, and the others merged with Alan Aldridge at Ink Studios. Happy endings.”
He Became Popular In America Doing Theater
Alan Rickman may have become extremely popular after he played the villain in Die Hard, but the acting community had already known him before he ever stepped in front of the camera. He started turning heads with his portrayal of Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1987, the play debuted on Broadway and Rickman came along. He was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his performances.
He Made Us Think He Was A Cello Player
In the 1990 British fantasy drama movie Truly Madly Deeply, Alan Rickman played a cellist who comes back as a ghost so he could be together with his grieving girlfriend. In the film, he appears to play the cello very well, but that’s not really the case. The actor did take cello lessons for the role, but mastering the instrument while focusing on his acting was just impossible, so he handled the bowing arm while a master cellist reached his hand under Rickman’s armpit and handled the rest.
He Started His Acting Career Later In Life
Rickman was pretty successful as a graphic designer, but becoming an actor was always something he wanted to do. While working in graphics, he sent the Royal Academy of Dramatic a letter hoping he could get an audition. Rickman said, “I was getting older and I thought if you really want to do this you’ve got to get on with it.” For his audition, he opted to do a speech from Richard III. He was granted a scholarship into the academy and finally found his calling.
He Made Sure To Give Back
Alan Rickman always made sure to give back considering the opportunities that he has been given. He was an active patron for the charity called Saving Faces, which was among his biggest projects. He was also the International Performers’ Aid Trust honorary president. This charity aims to alleviate poverty in different impoverished places around the world. Rickman usually played villains, but he was quite the opposite in real life.
He Won Multiple Awards
Alan Rickman had a good year in 1995, when he won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy for his performance in the made-for-TV movie Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny, where he played Rasputin. Before that, however, he had already received a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). His work on the film The Winter Guest also earned him recognition, and he took home a Gold Hugo and a ‘CinemAvvenire’ Award for Best First Film at the Venice Film Festival.
He Said No To Playing The Sheriff Of Nottingham Twice
Alan Rickman may have done a stellar job as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 Robin Hood film, but he initially didn’t want to take on the role of the vile sheriff. As a matter of fact, he even turned down the role twice! However, the people working on the movie knew they needed the actor for the role and were set on getting him on board, so they took another approach. They basically told him he had creative control over his character and that changed his mind. It’s a good thing they thought of offering him that because Rickman’s performance made the movie.
He Was Not The Studio’s First Choice To Play Severus Snape
J.K. Rowling admitted that even before her book series became a worldwide phenomenon, she wrote the character of Severus Snape based off of the past roles that Rickman had done. However, the studio’s first choice to play the role was Tim Roth, and she agreed to this. Thankfully, Roth turned down the role and opted to play a chimp in the 2001 film Planet of the Apes by Tim Burton. Rickman ended up taking on the role and nailing the part. Today, it’s impossible to imagine anybody else playing Snape.
He Pranked Daniel Radcliffe
On the set of the Harry Potter series, Rickman played pranks and actor Daniel Radcliffe experienced one firsthand. Radcliffe said that Rickman had planted a “farting machine” into the sleeping bag that Radcliffe had to use filming a very intense scene for The Prisoner of Azkaban. When the cameras began rolling, Rickman pressed the button and everyone heard the sound the machine made. Apparently, everybody in the studio were in tears because of laughing so hard.
He Suggested Sigourney Weaver For A Role
After reading the script for Snow Cake, Alan Rickman knew he wanted to do the movie, but he made a small suggestion to the producers of the film. He asked that Sigourney Weaver be seriously considered for the role of Linda as he had worked with the actress on Galaxy Quest. He even personally called up Weaver to ask her to read the script because he believed the movie was right up her alley. It turns out that Rickman was right and the film went great.
He Was Offered Hugh Grant’s Role
Much like how the role in Die Hard went to Rickman after Sam Neill turned it down, the same thing happened in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Rickman’s role fell to Hugh Grant. Originally, Four Weddings and a Funeral was supposed to star Rickman but he couldn’t make the film. Although the writer, Richard Curtis, was uneasy about it, he agreed to hiring Hugh Grant for the role. It all paid off since the film ended up making Grant famous, just like what Die Hard did for Rickman.
He Almost Became Part Of Red Dwarf
For a change, Alan Rickman almost did the hit sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, together with other esteemed actors including Hugh Laurie and Alfred Molina. Rickman wanted to be on the show and play the uptight Rimmer. However, he only agreed to read for the part after having a couple of beers with the producers. In the end, lesser-known actors made the show but it didn’t matter much since the series went on to become a major hit. As for Rickman, he still ended up playing a space role in Galaxy Quest.
He Was Offered A Role In An Animated Series
Yet another project which requested the acting services of Alan Rickman was the 2000 animated series Clerks by Kevin Smith. Rickman was offered the role of Leonardo, a character supposed to be based on Hans Gruber. Under Rickman’s request, the character’s design was later altered. The actor wasn’t really keen on ripping off his own character. However, in the end it didn’t matter since the studio decided to go with Alec Baldwin instead and the project continued without Rickman, who didn’t seem to mind.
He Could Pull Off Some Really Good Vocals
There may be scientific evidence that Alan Rickman’s voice is one of the best, but that doesn’t mean he could sing. Yet, he has proven time and again that he could pull off some really good vocals. For example, in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, he had to sing all of his lines. Rickman credits the coaches who helped the actor discover his potential since he claims his drama school teachers told him that he sounded as if he was “singing through a drain pipe.”
He Was Quite Young When He Lost His Dad
Alan Rickman was born to Margaret and Bernard Rickman in Hammersmith, London. Margaret was a homemaker while former WWII aircraft fitter Bernard painted houses and took jobs in factories. Rickman was just eight years old when his dad, Bernard, died from lung cancer. Margaret had no choice but to raise Rickman and her three other children on her own. As a single mother, she had a hard time making ends meet while working at the Post Office. Rickman said of his mom, “She was a tigress. She could do anything.”
He Got His Driver’s License After A Couple Of Attempts
Rickman came to Hollywood when his career took off. He thought that he should get a California Driver’s License so he could get around easier. However, he admitted that it took him more than one try to get his license. When a person fails their driving test for the first time, you would think they’ve done something quite bad like forgetting to use a blinker or accidentally running over a curb. However, this wasn’t actually the case for Rickman as the actor failed for “driving too cautiously through a green light!”
He Was Set On Joining The Star Wars Franchise
Many years before he was cast as Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter, Alan Rickman tried to be in another successful franchise: Star Wars. In the early 1980s, Rickman tried to land a part in Return of the Jedi. According to some accounts, Rickman used a “big, slow, low voice” when he auditioned for the character Moff Jerjerrod. In the scene, Moff is supervising the building of the second Death Star. Can you imagine Snape giving orders to Death Star engineers as if he was their teacher at Hogwarts?
He Never Watches His Work On Screen
Alan Rickman was a really talented actor and part of what made him so dynamic is probably the fact that he never watched his work on screen. He avoided watching himself on screen, fearing that his acting abilities might be affected. In 2015, he told Empire magazine he “never” watches himself and he added, “It’s done. That’s how I feel about that. I’m not saying it’s wrong for everybody, I probably should be stronger and learn to do it, but I think you start to edit yourself.”
He Loved Birds
Someone who loves birds is called an ornithophile and Alan Rickman was certainly one. In 2012, he appeared on StarTalk, where he said to Neil deGrasse Tyson, “I’m fascinated watching a flock of birds. What’s going on there? How do they know they’re with more of them anyway?” With regard to these winged creatures, Rickman posed some pretty interesting questions to think about. We can only imagine he spent a lot of his free time relaxing outdoors, watching birds fly by.
He Didn’t Have One Favorite Character
If Alan Rickman was asked which of the characters he played he could relate to the most, the actor wouldn’t give a straight answer, probably because he injects himself into every role to really become the character. “It’s me doing them. So what have I got to draw on, really? I mean, there’s the writing and there’s the homework, but then it’s got to be fed through me. That goes back to trying to figure out who you are anyway. In that you choose this job called an actor,” he explained to Empire.
He Was The Inspiration For Another Character
It turns out that there is another writer aside from J.K. Rowling who thought of Alan Rickman when writing an important character. Angela Pell wrote the role of Alex Hughes in 2006’s Snow Cake with Rickman in mind. At the Berlinale Press Conference, Pell actually revealed she originally named the character as “Alan” when writing the screenplay but under Rickman’s suggestion, the name was later changed to “Alex.” He probably didn’t want to get confused while filming the movie.
He Wanted More Creative Control
One of the memorable early roles that Alan Rickman did is the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). This was also one of the many roles Rickman infamously turned down, but producers at Warner Bros. refused to give up on him. He turned down the role twice before he decided to take it. What made Rickman change his mind was the producers telling him he had a carte-blanche, which meant he was free to do whatever he wanted when interpreting the character.
He Was The Godfather Of Actor Tom Burke
Alan Rickman may not have had any children with Rima Horton during their decades-long relationship, but in some ways, he was still a father. Rickman was chosen to be the English actor Tom Burke’s godfather. Rickman knew Burke’s parents, who were actors themselves. Just like his godfather, Burke has worked on stage and on screen. In 2008, he took on the role of Adolph in Rickman’s film Creditors, for which Burke received an Ian Charleston Award.
His Favorite Film
Alan Rickman may not have watched himself on screen but he did love to enjoy films on his own. He told Australia’s ABC that Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville was his favorite movie. According to some sources, this was the film which changed Rickman’s life and inspired him to go into acting! This film combined satire, musical, and drama with a high profile cast that includes Ned Beatty, Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Murphy, Henry Gibson, and Lily Tomlin.
He Would Have Loved To Start A Family
Alan Rickman may have not had children, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to have them. He said that starting a family was something he would have liked, but his love for his wife was more than his desire to have kids. He decided against children to respect the wishes of his wife not to have them. He explained, “You should remember I am not the only one involved. There is another person here. I would have loved a family. Sometimes I think that in an ideal world, three children… would be dropped on us and we would be great parents,”
He Was Quite Fond Of Canada
It was a known fact that Alan Rickman was quite fond of Canada. He was also really close friends with Adrienne Clarkson, the former Canadian Governor General. Rickman met Clarkson after his Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway production of Private Lives. Rickman said this of his dear friend Clarkson: “She is an amazing woman. Canada ought to be very proud of her.” One of the reasons Rickman had grown to be very fond of Canada is the fact that he spent a lot of time there filming many movies, including Snow Cake.
He Also Did Some Work Behind The Camera
Alan Rickman has proven himself as an actor. It’s no surprise that he eventually decided to try getting behind the scenes. A Little Chaos, the 2014 British period drama, was famously directed by Rickman. The film had a star-studded cast, including Stanley Tucci, Kate Winslet, and even Rickman himself! The story is about a female landscape gardener that gets chosen to build the grand gardens at Versailles. In 2014, A Little Chaos premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
He Struggled To Act In A Little Chaos
Many people probably think acting in a film which you direct wouldn’t be a big deal, but Alan Rickman did not agree. He said the only reason that he played King Louis XIV in A Little Chaos was “economics.” When he was asked what it was like acting under his own direction, he said to Empire that it was “Awful. And I really wouldn’t have done it, but it was economics. They didn’t have to pay that actor. The only thing that made it bearable was having such a close relationship with [cinematographer] Ellen Kuras and traveling in to the set together.”
He Experienced Stage Fright
While the stage was Alan Rickman’s true love, the esteemed actor admitted that he also experienced stage fright. In film and television, a mistake can be fixed with a new take, but with the stage, there is no room for actors to make mistakes. In an interview, Rickman mentioned the “gremlin” of stage fright to Charlie Rose and said, “I can only speak for myself, there’s this huge fear factor you have to deal with… and it doesn’t go away, the fear.”
He Turned Down Knighthood
There are rumors that Alan Rickman is among several distinguished actors who have turned down getting knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Individuals can be nominated for knighthood by the government, the public, or the Queen herself! It’s not unusual for celebrities and commoners to be appointed to the Order of the British Empire (OBE). It is said that Rickman has declined the honor, but no one really knows why. Just like him, David Bowie, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and Roald Dahl all did the same thing.
He Supported The Labour Party
Alan Rickman was quoted to have said he was born “a card carrying member of the Labour party.” In the U.K., he was known to be one of the most famous celebrities who have supported Britain’s Labour Party, which is a center-left political party known to champion different progressive ideals in politics. After Rickman passed away in 2016, the British journalist Alastair Campbell talked about him to Newsweek and said, “[He] was a supporter of the Labour Party when it was far from fashionable among artists to be so. He had a passionate belief in progressive causes and progressive politics and was a great friend to many in the party and beyond.”
He Claimed To Be A Wine Buff
The 2008 film Bottle Shock is based on the 1976 event known as the “Judgement of Paris,” where a California wine won over French wine in a blind taste test. Alan Rickman played Steven Spurrier, a sommelier and wine shop owner. As it turns out, his role was not that far off from Rickman’s personality as he claims to be a wine buff. Rickman said of the film to Los Angeles Magazine, “Famously, the California wines won with all the French judges, in both red and white, and it opened the doors for not only American wines but Australians and others as well.”
His Infamous Voice
One of the reasons Alan Rickman was a stand-out actor is definitely his voice. Part of what makes his acting roles really convincing is his languid delivery of lines, but apparently, his infamous speech pattern was partly caused by an impediment that he suffered growing up. According to some sources, when Rickman was a child, his lower jaw became a problem for him. He experienced tightness in his jaw and when he spoke words would come out muffled and indistinct. Obviously, he learned to work with condition and used it to his advantage.
He Showed Support For A Cause
Alan Rickman directed the play titled “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” which is based on the student from Evergreen State College who was killed while acting as a human shield on the Gaza Strip. Rickman and The Guardian journalist Katharine Viner are co-editors of the play. Because of the project, he reportedly lost some pro-Israel fans but that didn’t stop him from bringing it to production. “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” he told The Guardian.