With facile remembrances making the rounds today it may not be obvious to casual audience members what Alan Rickman has done yet has been edited out from the corporate media’s vulture feast.
One role that inevitably gets a nod is Hans Gruber, the Die Hard villain that put Rickman on the map. What isn’t mentioned is why. Gruber wasn’t a simple bad guy. He was a capitalist/terrorist, a pink elephant, something unthinkable in corporate consumer culture. His heist was a well-financed capitalist venture with clear goals and a distasteful externalized cost of blowing up all the hostages in order to get away. Sorry, you’re thirty years late for a “spoiler alert,” but that was Gruber’s diabolical plan.
He took on the persona of a leftist terrorist, a cliche of the 1970s and one that was manipulated and even faked by the powers that be across Europe in Operation Gladio. Die Hard turned this trope on its head, such that Gruber et al. assumed the external trappings of your Red Brigade cliche, but their actual motive was simple profit. For all intents and purposes they were indistinguishable from political terrorists, except that their cause was selfish instead. Corporate for-profit media doesn’t talk about things like that. In fact in the US corporate media spectrum the exposure of Operation Gladio has never been mentioned in history, as far as I can find.
Closet Land is the Alan Rickman role that will always stick in my mind as his most stunning work. Much like the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet–a torturing, mass-murdering, Chilean thug installed with US assistance–the fictional world in Closet Land pits an author against an all-powerful tyrannical state. Madeleine Stowe has been arrested for allegedly corrupting the minds of kids through her children’s books. Alan Rickman is her torturer. It is a harrowing, stylized play that lays bare the reality it reflected.
Rickman then stood up for murdered American activist Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer when trying to stop the illegal razing of Palestinian homes in Gaza. In 2005 My Name is Rachel Corrie was met with censorship and political turmoil in New York City.
Rachel Corrie, by siding with Palestinians, met the same fate as many, including demonization in the western press for daring to oppose Israeli war crimes. Rickman not only stood up for her memory but immortalized it in the play based upon her words.
We haven’t heard much about Alan Rickman’s passionate political activism today. The perception pushed out is that he was simply another Harry Potter character. And so I needed to mention it. He was a great actor and a man of integrity, that rare ingredient you cannot buy at any price.