According to The Hollywood Reporter, Alan Rickman has died at the age of 69 with the cause of death being cancer. We loved him as Hans Gruber, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Professor Snape. We consistently watch him break Emma Thompson’s heart during our annual Christmas viewings of Love Actually. And we still can’t believe he’s dead. As of this writing, there are no further details on his passing other than confirmation from his representatives that he did pass away at some point earlier today.
In a week which already took David Bowie away from us, this news feels like it’s kicking us while we’re still down, and since it is actually the first movie I saw him in my mind immediately flashes to Die Hard. Perhaps I also go there because Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently did its own Die Hard episode, a culmination of a series of jokes dating back to the pilot about how Andy Samberg’s character is obsessed with that movie. It’s what made him want to become a cop, and Rickman’s performance is what made so many of want to become “sneering, intellectual and Time magazine-referencing” bad guys taking over the Nakatomi building in Los Angeles.
Wait. Scratch that. It’s what made us want to…um
Okay. I don’t know if anyone actually grew up completely aspiring to become Hans Gruber, but we definitely grew up loving the character, setting the stage for a never-ending series of respected British actors slumming it in American action movies as the bad guy in the ensuing decades.
It almost didn’t happen though. Back in April, Rickman attended a career retrospective (A BAFTA Life in Pictures) in the UK, and opened up about how little he actually cared for the Die Hard script when he first read it:
“I read it, and I said, ‘What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.’ Agents and people said: ‘Alan, you don’t understand, this doesn’t happen. You’ve only been in L.A. two days, and you’ve been asked to do this film.'”
Once he did take the role, he actually made a crucial contribution to the conception of the character, who was actually meant to be seen wearing typical terrorist attire:
“I was just thinking: If I was wearing a suit and not all of this terrorist gear, then maybe there could be a scene where I put on an American accent, and he thinks I’m one of the hostages.”
He left a note about that on the desk of the film’s producer, Joel Silver, who was less gracious in his response
“Then I went back to England, and I kind of got the Joel Silver: ‘Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told,’ and I said, ‘OK, fine.’ And then I came back and they handed me the new script. So, you know, it just pays to occasionally use a little bit of theater training when you’re doing a movie.”
Rickman also admitted that all of the work with guns in the movie made him nervous, to the point that if you watch his scenes closely you can see that he’s sometimes blinking in fear. By the end, though, “It is shocking how thrilling it is to shoot a machine gun, that I discovered.”
While Rickman is sadly gone, leaving behind a widow, Hans Gruber (and so many other characters he created) will live on forever