On what would have been his 70th birthday, here’s part 2 of my tribute to Alan Rickman.
Back in January, screen and stage legend Alan Rickman died at the age of 69. There were plenty of tributes to one of Britain’s greatest actors, and I decided to add my own little tribute to celebrate Rickman’s best roles. Here’s the first part where I looked at one of my personal favourite roles, the perfectly pitched Marvin The Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
In this section, I’m looking at some roles outside his normal sphere, as he took on some science-fiction in…
Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999)
Galaxy Quest was once voted the seventh best Star Trek film – which is ridiculous, since it is clearly top 5. It’s a film made with great love and affection for the genre and people it is satirizing. The cast of an old science fiction TV show is mistaken for real space travellers by a group of aliens, who have taken the episodes of their show as “historical documents”. The cast of Galaxy Quest are then transported into the middle of a negotiation between the peaceful Thermians and the brutal warlord Sarris. In between the jokes poking fun at Star Trek, its fans, and its actors, we get a decent sci-fi action film, with rock monsters, a ticking bomb, and some surprisingly good-looking aliens.
Rickman plays Alexander Dane, who starred in Galaxy Quest as Dr Lazarus, the alien science officer of the ship. The character in the show is obviously based on Spock from
Star Trek, but Alexander Dane is based only partly on Leonard Nimoy, as there are big parts of Patrick Stewart, Alec Guinness, and Rickman himself. He’s a classically trained actor (“I played Richard III… Five curtain calls”) afraid of typecasting and having a disdain for the role that made him famous, or at least the effect the role had on his career. He also has some issues with Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen doing a thinly veiled William Shatner) who is clearly a scene-stealing glory hog (“You were never serious about your craft” Dane shouts at Nesmith during a fight with a rock monster).
Alan Rickman is spot-on in all parts of this film, from the eye rolling thespian who “won’t say that stupid line one more time” who transforms into the hero by the end of the film, fist-fighting with aliens. An absolute joy to behold, Rickman drew on his own fears of being typecast (although he was far to talented for that to happen) as a villain in Hollywood films to give Duke a realism that few other actors could have produced. His twitchy reaction to Nesmith’s “the show must go on” is brilliant.
By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you should watch this film! (Sorry…)
And I don’t normally include videos, but here is some of Alan Rickman’s best bits from the film. I think this is a promo, but obviously I make no claims on ownership and all copyrights are owned by Dreamworks SKG and Gran Via Productions.
Another surprising choice Alan Rickman made was when he joined the View Askewniverse…
Dogma (Kevin Smith, 1999)
Dogma is a Kevin Smith film about a woman who has to stop two banished Angels from being absolved of their sins and getting into heaven, thus proving God fallible and unmaking all creation. Unsurprisingly it caused controversy on its release, with the Catholic League calling it blasphemous. The strange thing is – Catholics should love this film. There are some issues about language that might put some off, but this has a deeper understanding of religious doctrine – and dogma – than anything else you are likely to see in a Hollywood film, or even any form of entertainment. And the references to religious figures and events come thick and fast. If your faith can’t take Angels getting angry with God’s judgement or Alanis Morissette playing God, the problem is not with the movie.
The absolute highlight of this film is Alan Rickman as Metatron. He is the Seraphim who acts as the voice of God (“Any documented occassion when some yahoo claims God has spoken to them, they’re speaking to me. Or they’re talking to themselves”) since humans do not have the aural or psychological capacity to hear God’s voice (“we went through five Adams before we figured that one out”). Rickman really delivers in this film, nailing the Angelic herald part of the role and then later fits perfectly into the rhythm of Smith’s script with the rest of the gang.
I enjoy Dogma, and Alan Rickman’s supporting role just makes me want more of Metatron on screen. He brings a level of class to proceedings that I think makes it my favourite Kevin Smith film.
Later on, Alan Rickman took another unexpected role as he met the Demon Barber of Fleet Street…
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (Tim Buron, 2007)
For me, Alan Rickman in a musical was certainly unexpected, but in the hands of Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd is the perfect place for him. He plays Judge Turpin, the corrupt lawman whose envy of Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) leads to his banishment. When Barker returns as Sweeney Todd, Turpin is holding Todd’s daughter as his ward and plans to marry her.
Turpin is the main antagonist that sets in motion all of Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) plans. His sinister attitude towards his ward Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is almost pantomime villain in its creepiness, but as the charming gif below proves, Turpin is simply a man looking for love. It only takes a slight reframing for Rickman’s “Pretty Women” song to become a lovelorn plea that gets the audience’s sympathy. (Only the fact that Turpin wantonly destroyed lives to get what he wants spoils that idea slightly.)
Rickman and his lackey (played brilliantly by Timothy Spall) are just pure evil in this film, but in a way all of the characters are. In this blood splattered Tim Burton version of Sweeney Todd, they are the perfect fit. His obsession is not really any different from Mrs Lovett’s obsession with Sweeney Todd, or Todd’s obsession with his wife and daughter – which does lead him to murder numerous London gentlemen after all.
Again, Alan Rickman is fantastic, leaving you wanting more.
The final part of tribute to Alan Rickman will focus on his two biggest, most well know roles. Hans Gruber and Severus Snape. See you then.