By Stephanie Engel /
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]orld renowned British actor, Alan Rickman, has passed away at the age of 69, after losing his private battle with cancer. He is highly recognized by the younger generation from his epic performances in the Harry Potter series as Professor Severus Snape. However, it was a preceding role in the late 1980’s, likely remembered by the parents of the “Potter” generation that gave Rickman his household name.
Just two days after arriving in Los Angeles, the London native theater actor was offered a role as German terrorist Hans Gruber in the 1988 action-film Die Hard, playing opposite to Bruce Willis’s character John McLane. This memorable role was almost turned down after Rickman expressed that he did not wish to be in an action movie. The original script called for Gruber’s character to be dressed military style, harnessed to the image of a terrorist. Rickman simply suggested that Gruber should wear a suit, ultimately disguising himself as a distinguished American businessman in the later scene where John unknowingly meets Hans for the first time.
After receiving a new script with the suggested revisions, Rickman accepted the part which became known as one of the greatest villainous performances of all time. This role not only launched Rickman’s on-screen career, but also paved the way for the plot of the third movie in the Die Hard series, Die Hard With a Vengeance, where John McLane is forced into a deadly game of Simon Says in the streets of New York, led by the younger sibling of Rickman’s character in attempt to rob the Federal Reserve Bank (while cleverly toying with the man that killed his older brother). I completely agree with director John McTiernan when he stated that Rickman “had a gift for playing terrifying people.” The smooth-talking actor won over the hearts of millions of people (myself included) by deliciously frightening them. [pullquote]“I don’t remember this two count-three count thing. I just remember that again with the benefit of hindsight, I looked at the faces of some slightly incredulous producers when I said that I would do it myself and it was being dropped at about 40 feet as I recall. This was during the time where there was no CGI so it was let’s drop the actor.” [/pullquote]
Rickman’s outstanding performance in the film produced one of greatest and most talked about death scenes of all time; Hans Gruber falling 30 stories to his death off of Nakatomi Plaza. It is an epic slow-motion shot with Rickman looking straight into the camera as he falls backward. The key to this shot is in the fact that the look on Rickman’s face was his natural reaction to falling. A director’s cut to the movie reveals that the plan was to drop Rickman backward 25 feet onto an airbag on the count of three but instead they let him go after one in an effort to capture that genuine look of terror. “I don’t remember this two count-three count thing. I just remember that again with the benefit of hindsight, I looked at the faces of some slightly incredulous producers when I said that I would do it myself and it was being dropped at about 40 feet as I recall. This was during the time where there was no CGI so it was let’s drop the actor,” said Rickman during a 2009 interview with the Hudson Union Society.
It’s not important whether you remember him as Severus Snape or as Hans Gruber, just as long as you remember him. Happy Trails, Alan. Thank you for the memories.
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