2016 has only been here for a few short weeks. Unfortunately, along with Arctic blasts and birther campaigns, it’s brought the loss of several notable celebrities, including Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and most recently, Glenn Frey of The Eagles. All have commanded audiences for decades and their deaths surely will be a celebration of their lives and their contributions to all of ours. This blogger would like to focus on one of these great artists: Alan Rickman. An incredible character actor. A quiet, no-frills Brit who morphed into each and every role he played. In the days following his death, the headlines focused on Rickman’s role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film. A legendary role, no doubt. And a role within a movie series that has literally changed lives and joined the annals of great, generation-defining movies.
However, among the well-deserved headlines reporting his unfortunate passing, very few mentioned Rickman’s greatest role—Hans Gruber. That’s right. We’re talking Die Hard. We’re talking John McClane v. Hans Gruber, Good v. Evil, ‘Merica v. Germany. You get the picture. Rickman portrayed the German terrorist who leads his band of muscle men to take over a Los Angeles office building during the Christmas holidays. Without Hans, and ipso facto, without Rickman, would Bruce Willis’s John McClane have been so charming? We dare say no. Rickman lulls you in to his world; in fact, he makes you not completely despise Gruber until halfway through the movie. He’s suave, surprisingly good with a gun, and hypocritical in his lust for money and deceivingly good American an German accents, all the while continuing his façade of devoted political terrorism. If he weren’t so good at playing the villain, Han’s mix-up of John Wayne and Gary Cooper could be considered endearing.
In the end, it becomes personal for Gruber just as much as it was personal for McClane. Rickman digs deep in, by the way, his first ever action movie, and fights to the bitter end. Please don’t get us wrong. We’ll always pull for McClane, and he’ll always win, just ask Hans and his younger brother Simon. But as good as Willis is as the blue-collar, degenerate cop with a hangover and a penchant for saving the world, Rickman is equally good as the tailored, educated, and refined villain, calmly (and then not so calmly) being foiled by Mr. Cowboy.
If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again, often. And while you’re at it, say hello to Rickman’s other notable roles: Harry, the classic fool, the Sherriff of Nottingham, Colonel Brandon, and of course, Professor Snape. We’ll remember all of these. And after all this time, we’ll remember Hans and Rickman . . . always. Yippie-Ki-Yay.