ALAN RICKMAN (1946-2016)
There is so much that is matchless to remember about Alan Rickman. His career was at the highest level, as actor on stage and screen and as director ditto. His last bequest of his film "A Little Chaos" and his indelible performance as Louis 14th, should now reach the wider audience they deserve.
Beyond a career which the world is indebted to, he was a constant agent for helping others. Whether to institutions like RADA or to individuals and certainly to me, his advice was always spot-on. He put liberal philanthropy at the heart of his life. He and Rima Horton (50 years together) were always top of my dream-list dinner guests. Alan would by turns be hilarious and indignant and gossipy and generous. All this delivered sotto, in that convoluted voice, as distinctive as Edith Evans, John Gielgud, Paul Scofield, Alec Guinness, Alastair Sim or Bowie, company beyond compare.
When he played Rasputin, I was the Tzar Nicholas. Filming had started before I arrived in St Petersburg. Precisely as I walked into the hotel-room, the phone rang. Alan, to say welcome, hope the flight was tolerable and would I like to join him and Greta Scacchi and others in the restaurant in 30 minutes? Alan, the concerned leading man. On that film, he discovered that the local Russian crew was getting an even worse lunch than the rest of us. So he successfully protested. On my first day before the camera, he didn't like the patronising, bullying tone of a note which the director gave me. Alan, seeing I was a little crestfallen, delivered a quiet, concise resume of my career and loudly demanded that the director up his game.
Behind his starry insouciance and careless elegance, behind that mournful face, which was just as beautiful when wracked with mirth, there was a super-active spirit, questing and achieving, a super-hero, unassuming but deadly effective.
I so wish he'd played King Lear and a few other classical challenges but that's to be greedy. He leaves a multitude of fans and friends, grateful and bereft.
-- Ian McKellen, London, 14 January 2016
Photo: Ian McKellen, Greta Scacchi and Alan Rickman at the Golden Globe Awards, 1997