I grew up watching James Bond movies. I now own all of them and occasionally will throw one in my antiquated DVD player and let it be background noise while I work on more productive things.
I do not apologize for being a Bond fan. After all the James Bond franchise invented movie franchises. When they made Dr. No in 1962 nobody could predict that 50 years later there would be 23 of them and that the arc of quality, and box office sales with it, would extend ever upwards, albeit with occasional dips along the way. Even the most maligned Bond movies today were considered quality movies in their own era. They just did not age well (consider Die Another Day). And the most maligned upon their release have now been given second visits and been found to be ahead of their time (consider On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).
Yet what makes the Bond franchise unique is that the pool of acting talent in England is much smaller than the US pool. This means that any British actor who makes it big immediately gets considered for a Bond role. Apparently this was true of Alan Rickman. If you type “Alan Rickman James Bond” into Google (as I just did) you will find countless articles from the last 20 years claiming he would be or should be the next Bond villain. The latest was written just months ago. And I would love a Rickman villain. Him and Daniel Craig would have been incredible foils. Moreover, Bond does seem like the perfect fit for a Rickman, especially after his devilish turn in the first Die Hard movie.
All that to say when Harry Potter made Rickman a household name, I ran across an interview with him where they asked him about the number of times he had been asked to play a Bond villain. In that article he explained that he was not a villain, did not like playing villains and would avoid those roles from here on out. Those roles were limiting and there is the concern about character formation.
Years later, Snape killed Dumbledore and became
the “Half Blood Prince” at the end of Rowling’s sixth Harry Potter book. Probably being the only person who remembered the interview, I felt a massive sense of sorrow for Rickman. He had been duped into a villain role after all, albeit an incredibly well written one.
At that point, given my strange attraction to all things dark side, I went on to hope that Snape would become the new dark lord at the end of Harry Potter. After all he deserved power more than any other character in the series, especially Harry himself!
Alas that was not to be. It turned out Snape had a hidden love interest and the hidden love saved the Harry Potter-verse. If he wasn’t going to be the dark lord, I figured I’d settle for secret hero, especially if Harry named his son after him.
I read another article after the last Potter movie was released. That article claimed Rickman made J.K. Rowling sit down with him before he signed onto the Snape role and explain the entire character’s arc. Presumably Rickman does not share my affinity for the dark side and wanted Rowling to guarantee him he would not be a villain. After all, he was done with those roles.
I respect that more than I can say. In fact it reminds me of Richard Kiel, who played the iconic Jaws in two Bond movies and was a born again Christian. He talked often about how much he regretted letting the Bond producers make him into a monster. Rumor has it that Kiel made them humanize Jaws at the end of Moonraker by giving him his own love interest. That love interest is maligned by fans but I always liked it because the ridiculous plot of Moonraker involved the villain killing everybody who wasn’t “perfect.” In a movie movie like that only Jaws the imperfect can save the day. When he does, he tips a champagne glass to the audience and utters his only line in the two movies, “Here’s to us.” The “us” isn’t just his girlfriend. It is everybody who isn’t “perfect.” In his own Richard Kiel way he was reminding us all that the imperfect are not the villains. They are human too.
Rickman gets a similar scene at the end of Harry Potter when Dumbledore says something to the effect of, “You still love her after all these years?”
Rickman utters, “Always!”
Always I refuse to play 2 dimensional villains.
Always I choose characters with emotional heft.
Always I bring weight and dimension to the big screen.
Always I will act my heart out to increase our understanding of humanity.
And never will I be made into a monster just so that the James Bond’s and Harry Potter’s of the world can have someone to shoot bullets and fling spells at!
Even though my hopes for his rise to Dark Lord status were squashed at that point, I couldn’t help but cry tears that you could put in my own pensieve.
On that note, I close with his other popular line from Galaxy Quest. It is one of the most absurd movies ever made, but once again Rickman brought a style, a class and a depth to his role that elevated it to a cult classic. When holding the dying Quellek he utters,
“By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the sons of Wovan, you shall be avenged!”
Rest in Peace Sir Alan.