Call Off Christmas

As if the loss of the magnificent David Bowie wasn’t enough, a mere four days later we awoke to the news that British acting legend Alan Rickman has also passed. Also at age 69, also of cancer, and also a great shock to many.

The world of film and theater is certainly going to miss that sonorous bass voice, that extraordinary gift evident in his portrayal of heroes and villains both. Action fans will no doubt remember Hans Gruber with fondness, but my own rather specific tastes recall other roles. Colonel Brandon, for example, in Sense and Sensibility; Doctor Lazarus in the hilarious Galaxy Quest; and the brilliantly sarcastic Sheriff of Nottingham, which stole the film and bagged a BAFTA into the bargain.

Alan Rickman

At the premiere of the final Harry Potter film, 2011. Photo by Joella Marano / CC

Then, of course, there was Professor Severus Snape; surely a perfectly turned performance, capturing precisely the haunted, complex character from the Harry Potter novels. Rickman was also known to have mentored the younger actors in that series, as shown in this moving post by Daniel Radcliffe.

What might be less well known includes his involvement in charity, particularly the International Performers’ Aid Trust, and in the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, created from the diaries of the young activist tragically killed in Palestine.

The Guardian article announcing Rickman’s death carries a beautiful eulogy from his colleague Emma Thompson:

What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was — his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him. He was the finest of actors and directors. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with his face next. I consider myself hugely privileged to have worked with him so many times and to have been directed by him.

He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics. I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.

Rickman was born on Feb. 21, 1946. His birth time does not appear to have been published; but his Sun is in early Pisces (alongside Venus and Mercury) and his Moon is most likely to be in early Scorpio. With Mars conjunct Saturn in Cancer, this adds up to a lot of Water — emotion, intuition and imaginative ability.

The Cancer pairing specifically (which is also in his solar 5th house, the area of creativity and play) seems to reflect the suppressed intensity characteristic of several of his roles. Watching him on screen, one consistently senses both that watery passion and the fragile shell that masks it, often with an effort. Yet Jupiter in Libra implies a sense of humor, too, both clever and mischievous.

The whole chart really speaks to his versatility, and his ability to inject each role with a touch of greatness. His devotion to his work — both as an actor and as a socially conscious human being who lived his convictions — is evident in this quote:

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.

Well, Alan Rickman certainly did that. And his absence is deeply and tangibly felt. Today the world has lost another of its best ambassadors.

10 thoughts on “Call Off Christmas

  1. Fe Bongolan

    I am still blue processing the loss of Bowie, and now adding Rickman to the mix.

    As an actor and an artist I mourn the collective loss to our community and our craft. Both men were iconic, both wells of character inspiring us to explore our darkest and outermost regions of the soul. They gave us permission to go anywhere with our character work. And yet both were just themselves — shining through the masks.

    To say that both their lives and the loss of them are an inspiration to go even more forward is an understatement. They lived what most artists must do until the end. Being fully all that they were and are, with all human facets explored. Shaman work.

  2. Lizzy

    “I am still blue processing the loss of Bowie, and now adding Rickman to the mix. ” Me too, Fe. Can’t bear it. Thank for your great comment. And many thanks for the lovely piece, Amy – with the wonderful Emma Thompson quote, and links. Was so great to come to PW and find this here, Soothes an aching heart.

  3. Amanda Painter

    So far, I have seen two wonderful insights into Alan Rickman when he was not on camera. One came from a friend of mine, a local filmmaker who was working for Craft Services on a late-90s movie Rickman acted in here in Maine. Her recollection of him included his kind words and sparkle offered sincerely even to her, a “lowly” crew member standing behind a table full of food.

    The other is this, posted by Sir Ian McKellen, a giant of stage and screen in his own right:

    ALAN RICKMAN (1946-2016)

    There is so much that is matchless to remember about Alan Rickman. His career was at the highest level, as actor on stage and screen and as director ditto. His last bequest of his film “A Little Chaos” and his indelible performance as Louis 14th, should now reach the wider audience they deserve.

    Beyond a career which the world is indebted to, he was a constant agent for helping others. Whether to institutions like RADA or to individuals and certainly to me, his advice was always spot-on. He put liberal philanthropy at the heart of his life. He and Rima Horton (50 years together) were always top of my dream-list dinner guests. Alan would by turns be hilarious and indignant and gossipy and generous. All this delivered sotto, in that convoluted voice, as distinctive as Edith Evans, John Gielgud, Paul Scofield, Alec Guinness, Alastair Sim or Bowie, company beyond compare.

    When he played Rasputin, I was the Tzar Nicholas. Filming had started before I arrived in St Petersburg. Precisely as I walked into the hotel-room, the phone rang. Alan, to say welcome, hope the flight was tolerable and would I like to join him and Greta Scacchi and others in the restaurant in 30 minutes? Alan, the concerned leading man. On that film, he discovered that the local Russian crew was getting an even worse lunch than the rest of us. So he successfully protested. On my first day before the camera, he didn’t like the patronising, bullying tone of a note which the director gave me. Alan, seeing I was a little crestfallen, delivered a quiet, concise resumé of my career and loudly demanded that the director up his game.

    Behind his starry insouciance and careless elegance, behind that mournful face, which was just as beautiful when wracked with mirth, there was a super-active spirit, questing and achieving, a super-hero, unassuming but deadly effective.

    I so wish he’d played King Lear and a few other classical challenges but that’s to be greedy. He leaves a multitude of fans and friends, grateful and bereft.

    — Ian McKellen, London, 14 January 2016

    It is rather astonishing to me that any director could have spoken condescendingly to Ian McKellen, but it is infinitely heartening and inspiring to me to know that Rickman not only stood up for him, but also for the Russian crew. Truly, we have lost a human being who made a true difference in lives, and who should have stayed with us much longer. I trust that the lives he has touched will carry on his legacy with acts of comparable kindness, respect, generosity and conscience.

  4. aWord

    I didn’t know until your post Amy, that Mr. Rickman and I share a date of birth (I don’t run into many Feb 21st-ers, or late-February at all) And 12 years apart at that. Well, considering planetary cycles, I’ve unknowingly been in good company. Were my daughter still in this life-form, she’d be terribly upset today as he was one of her most favorite public people; but some where today there are quite a few creatives brewing up joy and goodwill on/from another plane–agents of change indeed 🙂

  5. M.

    Hi Amy, Fe, Lizzy, Amanda, aWord, I’m so glad I found this post here on Planet Waves today, and your wonderful comments about this wonderful man.
    It feels to me as if someone who I loved dearly just passed, though I never met the man personally, and I was not a fan who was following his every step. But I did pay attention to his choices and enjoyed him in most of his well-known films. I don’t know whether it was his exquisite voice, or his presence and a sense of steady calmness about him, or even his (seemingly) serious, handsome face illuminating whenever he cracked a smile. His baddies were both nuts and irreverent, his good guys had so much intensity and passion, so much depth, not the classic good guys *at all*. Watching him would just take my breath away.
    I’m glad such a person existed, and gifted us with his creativity. I’m having a hard time saying “he will be missed”, but he will indeed, very much so.
    Again, thank you Planet Waves gang for holding this space, sharing what touched you about this man and giving me the chance to share as well.
    May your trip be blessed with love and light, Alan.

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