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Alan Rickman: 10 key performances

From the Sheriff of Nottingham to Severus Snape, Alan Rickman played some of the most memorable roles cinema had to offer. Here are 10 of the best

After graduating from drama school in 1974, Rickman pursued a successful career in theatre, culminating in an award-winning performance as Valmont in the premiere run of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1985. Before that, however, he had made his mark on screen, playing the oleaginous Obadiah Slope in The Barchester Chronicles, the celebrated BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollopes novels which was broadcast in 1982.

Die Hard

After knocking Broadway audiences out with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Rickman jumped straight into the deep end, cinema-wise, joining the big-budget action film ballasted by Bruce Willis, then mainly known for Moonlighting. Rickman put his suave, insinuating tones to tremendous use, turning in a definitive performance as the contemporary Eurovillain and providing generations of Brit stage actors with endless work in Hollywood blockbusters.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Anthony Minghellas directorial debut marked a change of pace for Rickman, a more naturalistic performance in what, admittedly, is essentially a ghost story. Rickman played Juliet Stevensons cellist boyfriend, who returns to haunt her after his death. Stevensons portrayal of a grief-stricken lover hanging on to what she has lost remains a towering achievement, and Rickman is the perfect foil.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Hollywood was not to be denied for long, however, and Rickman returned for a villainous role that arguably outdid even Die Hard. Though it attracted plenty of ridicule for its copious use of American accents, as well the wearying reign of theme song Everything I Do at the top of the charts, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a massive commercial success, in no small part due to Rickmans black-clad brilliance as the Sheriff of Nottingham for which he won a Bafta for best supporting actor.

Close My Eyes

Another change of pace for Rickman, taking top billing over Clive Owen and Saskia Reeves in Stephen Poliakoffs incest drama. In truth, Owen and Reeves were the leads, playing a brother and sister fatally attracted to each other, and whose messy relationship functions as a metaphor for the murky morals of late Thatcherite Britain. Rickman, however, was on top form as the rich business analyst who marries Reeves, embodying the unconventionality that enabled the powerful classes to maintain their wealth and position.

Sense and Sensibility

Another smallish but memorable role came Rickmans way in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee. An unexpectedly perfect rendering of Jane Austens novel, Rickman as the noble Colonel Brandon scaled it back a little to play a notionally older man who woos and wins Kate Winslets Marianne. In retrospect, S&S turbocharged many careers though perhaps not Rickmans, who was already fully established. However, it did mark the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with Thompson, who he cast in his directorial debut The Winter Guest (alongside Thompsons mother Phyllida Law) two years later.

Galaxy Quest

Rickman showcased his gift for comedy in this immensely likeable Star Trek spoof in which the crew of a sci-fi TV series are mistaken for genuine space warriors by a group of visiting aliens. Rickman played the shows Spock-type character Dr Lazarus of TevMeck as a frustrated stage thespian, convinced the whole thing is beneath him. All together now: By Grabthars Hammer, you shall be avenged!

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

Rickmans leading-man days were well behind him by the time the Harry Potter films were put into production, but his casting as Severus Snape gave him a fantastically meaty role that lasted throughout the entire series. An enigmatic figure of apparently shifting loyalties, Snape evolved from a sardonic teacher of potions into a key player in Potters ongoing battle with Voldemort.

Love, Actually

Rickmans position as one of British cinemas great and good was cemented by his participation in the instant-family-favourite Love, Actually, directed by Richard Curtis at the height of his popularity. Rickman played a philandering husband (his wife played by Emma Thompson) whose sneaky purchase of a necklace for his secretary leads to a near-total unravelling of his marriage.

A Little Chaos

Rickman returned to the directors chair nearly 20 years after The Winters Guest, and reunited with Kate Winslet for an 17th century-set study of royal gardening. Winslet played the lead, as unconventional garden designer Sabine de Barra who is haunted by a tragic past; Rickman cast himself as Louis XIV whose patronage leads to her success.

Eye in the Sky

Rickmans final performance (not counting his voiceover for the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland sequel) is in this well-received British produced thriller, which focusses on the moral complexities of drone strikes in overseas conflict. Rickman plays a British military officer acting as the interface between politicians and the army, while Helen Mirren (who handed him his Bafta all those years ago) is the tough-nut colonel who wants to call in the missiles.

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