This is shaping up to be a sad week, with the news this morning of the death of one of my very favorite actors, Alan Rickman. This is a tremendous loss. Mr. Rickman’s obvious intelligence, his physical presence, his beautiful, expressive face, and above all his wonderful deep voice, made even his minor performances memorable. And some of the major ones should make him immortal. I may have my arguments with the Harry Potter books, and even more serious ones with the movies that were made from them, but there is no question that Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape is one of the great dark heroes of film history.
On days like this, I break with precedent and screen a movie during working hours. My collection is thick with Rickman; I could have chosen one of the Potter films, or Galaxy Quest, or Die Hard, or even his comic turn in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. But instead I put on Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, with my all time favorite Rickman line in it.
Imagine Alan Rickman in the role of the stalwart and virtuous Colonel Brandon, waiting at the door of the bedroom where the woman he loves lies dangerously ill. Her sister steps out and finds him there in his beautiful rumpled Regency shirtsleeves and he asks her if there is anything he can do. She praises him, saying he has already done so much, and he says to her, in barely restrained agitation, “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.”
In Rickman’s voice, it works. In Rickman’s voice, pretty much everything worked.