Friday, 11 February 2011

Alan Rickman and Me

This past weekend I travelled to New York City to celebrate my birthday with some old friends. I was incredibly excited about this trip for many reasons. First, I had not been back to America in almost a year, and was actually starting to feel homesick for some unknown reason. Second, in the last year or so, most of my closest friends from high school and college all moved to the city so it was a great opportunity to see them. Finally, after (and I must emphasise this) my ticket was bought, I found out that Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw and Lindsay Duncan were performing John Gabriel Borkman by Henrik Ibsen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

If you only met me at college or in Scotland (or from this website!), you may not understand the significance of this, other than the occasional off-hand (and usually off-colour) statement. As a teenager, I loved Alan Rickman. I loved him so much it hurt. There was no one else; there was never going to be anyone else. You could not see me without seeing him. I had pictures in my car, in my books, on my walls, in my locker. I just wanted to have him around me at all times.

I'm pretty sure I had this one in my car

Honestly, I could not tell you why he meant so much to me. I have always been an obsessive person. I do not just like something, I love things. It has been commented by friends (and relative strangers) that if you could bottle my emotions, they would make a very powerful and very, very illegal drug. As a kid, I would always turn to books, music and films to escape the world. I still can't tell you why I feel as strong emotions as I do, but it has just been something I've had to accept.

So where did it all start? I remember going to see Galaxy Quest when I was younger and loving the Spock-like character with his snotty attitude and bad-ass-ery, so he always stuck in my mind as an awesome actor. Of course, there was also Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves which, combined with my love for bad boys, cemented my adoration of him.
I will cut your heart out, with a spoon!

Then, there was Severus Snape. Oh, Severus. My connection to this character from Harry Potter runs too deeply and emotionally for me to even feel comfortable talking about it here. I have such a personal attachment, though he may be fictional, to him and all the hard times he got me through. Again, I can't (and if I could, won't) explain it, but Snape was my rock. No one will understand. I don't expect anyone to. The only outlet I have for such things is my tattoos. I have reached a point where if someone says "I saw a picture of your Snape tattoo", I respond "Which one?".

Alan Rickman and Severus Snape were always two disparate people in my mind. I have never pictured Alan Rickman when I read the books, but he captured him. Completely. That is where the obsession started. He understood Snape as much as I did. He conveyed every emotion and attitude exactly the same way I saw it. For once, I felt that someone understood me and it must have been powerful, to come through a cinema screen.

***Harry Potter Spoilers!***

So that, truly, is as close as I can come to even trying to explain the depths of my adoration. It was the way he hid pain behind his anger and snarkiness; the way he walked with a grace, but a grace that was hiding years of abuse and loss. I spent the majority of my teenage years wrapped in the world of Severus Snape, trying to understand who he was. There was a connection, and I wanted it to fulfil what I had always felt. I knew him and I knew his motivations, though the rest of the world did not just yet.

After the sixth book came out, and the world (well, the Harry Potter world) turned against him, my heart broke. I knew. I knew he was good. He would not betray me like that. There was not even a doubt in my mind, at least for the character I had grown to love, that he was truly evil. So what did I do? I got his name tattooed on my back. Think about that. The risk, significance and loyalty that required. I was not being hormonal and stupid, I was standing by a symbol of my life.

When the final book came out, I had a massively cathartic release. I was right. I had been right about everything (okay, there was one minor detail I got wrong, but the rest was spot on) and my life was validated. That may seem like a hyperbole, but you have to understand that this character had metaphorically held my hand through highs and lows, telling me that it was okay, that he understood me. I don't know; if you have never experienced that connection to a book, film or song, you may not understand, but it is powerful. It honestly does feel like someone is holding your hand. In fact, there was an exact quote about that from History Boys:
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."
It is indeed a powerful thing, and that's what Severus Snape was to me. By the seventh book, I had mostly matured out of these, but it still validated my childhood which was something I was always looking for.

***end of (pretty tame) spoilers -- do people still get angry about these?***

So here I was, in New York as an adult, having made my own way in world, having fallen in love with "real" men by this point and been subsequently rejected; I had experienced real life and I was five feet away from the man himself. 

The man who had made me feel loved and understood. The man who conveyed masked heartbreak better than I ever could explain. The man who taught me that it was okay to feel the way I did and who did not make me feel lonely any more. I had never met him, and there he was. 
Alan Rickman as John Gabriel Borkman

When I was 14, I was out at lunch with classmates and asked if anyone would go see the Harry Potter film with me (I was, for the first time, starting to make real friends). One girl, who I barely knew, spoke up and said she would go, because she loved Alan Rickman. That was it. Best friends forever. It was next to this girl I sat to watch the play. She turned to me (as we realised we were only going to be five feet away from the action and two of the only six people the actors could see clearly, thanks to the stage lights) and said "Erin, our fourteen-year-old selves are giving each other MAJOR high-fives right now" and it was so true. 

The play commenced, along with two of my favourite actresses in the whole world, and I was there. When Lindsay Duncan confronted Alan Rickman about her heartbreak and what he had done to her, I was right with her, and it was a powerful experience, as going to the theatre should be. In truth, that is what it comes down to, right? Actors want to take you to a new world, to take you on an emotional ride, and that is always what he has done for me.

At the climax of the play, Alan Rickman stood on some "snow" mounds on my side of the stage and leaned against the wall, gazing out into the distance and it hit me. I did not want to jump his bones (as many people suspected I would actually do) but I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for everything he had done for my life; that he had been with me through the ups and downs. I wish I could thank him, I really do, but he is a symbol and no amount of storytelling could convey how much he did for my life. I did not need to meet him, as it would have detracted from the experience.

I walked away with a sense of completion. I had been near him, watched him perform with the utmost grace and sensitivity I always appreciated. The man has made me laugh, made me cry and made me love, and there will always be a special place in my heart for that.

Fiona Shaw, Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan
Also, he was fucking amazing and hot as ever. I would also still totally jump Fiona Shaw's bones and I basically want to be Lindsay Duncan. What a presence, man! Just had to throw that out there... hey-oh!

When Alan Rickman was named People's "Surprisingly Sexy" Man of the Year


  1. What a beautiful post, Erin. It's really touching, because you've captured so much of what I have felt myself. Reading this made my eyes well up with tears a bit--in a good way.

    btw if you click on my name, one of my blogs is about my own JGB/Alan experience. :)

  2. Very lovely post. I presume you cried when Snape died in the book. I know I did. So sad. Thankfully he lives on in the fanfiction world. I first saw AR in 'Truly, Madly, Deeply' and enjoyed him a lot.

  3. Hey there,
    I really wish I could meet you. Because that post just resonated with me on a level higher than anything else I've ever read. You're my hero, honestly. That's everything I've always struggled with through my teenage years to put into words, and you have done it with an ease and honesty that is beautiful. I, too, found my throat tightening and sobbing as your blog 'held my hand'.
    I too experienced Alan Rickman in Dublin last year. He meant the entire world to me and filled my every day thoughts and dreams for three years solid, at least. He still does. I will admit Ithink of him always at least once a day and look up the odd photo as a guilty pleasure once a day too.
    I wish I had your wisdom and maturity at that mind-blowing night of John Gabriel Borkman, because I KNOW I should've been content with that overwhelmingly perfect and irreplaceable experience of sitting front row and hearing his beautiful raw siren voice. But I chose to approach him afterwards, very coyly, and I regret it because it wasn't necessary. And it only leaves you confused, upset and frustrated at the whole inpracticality of the situation. There is no way that you can express the love and absolutely inextricable connection and influence that this majestic person has unwittingly played in your life. You feel like a fool. He doesn't really need to know from me, I should have just been safe in the knowledge that I knew everything he meant and did for me. And that's all that mattered.
    Also, the part about Snape... I have days where I just break down and cry about the whole tragedy of his life.
    I kid you not.
    I feel it in every fibre of my body sometimes and it makes me so desperate just thinking how he never had his moment of redemption where he could forgive himself also. Everything was just so unfair and tragic. He was and is undoubtedly the most affecting, raw, and life-changing character to have crossed into my life.
    I have deeply considered a tattoo in his honour also and everything he represents, but for the time being, I will continue to create artwork of his legacy and I have many a plan of t-shirts I will create of him.. With the pivotal 'Always' emblazoned on it.
    Thank you. For putting everything into words. For your honesty. For your understanding.
    I would love for you to drop a post to me at anytime, my blog is enclosed. I really would!
    All the best,

  4. This WAS lovely. I love it when great artists inspire other to make great art. And this post was a work of art.

    It would be nice if you could publish it in a media outlet somewhere so you could reach a larger audience. I don't know what Mr. Rickman would think of that. But I this post goes beyond him, and it should be seen by more people.

    Would you mind if I link to it?

  5. @librasmile Thank you! I'm not sure where I would go to publish this sort of thing (as you can see from the rest of the blog, I'm a scientist, not a writer!)

    I'd be perfectly happy if you linked and shared it and/or had any suggestions for sending it other places!

  6. @Emily (and all of you!) Thanks for the wonderful comments and I'm so happy my post resonated with you. It's nice to know we're not alone out there. I hope you keep reading as my posts can be fairly random!


  8. i also love alan rickman..youre so lucky to see him in person..amazing..i lost hope of seeing him perform on stage..i can only watch his movies..meeting him will always be a fantasy for me :(

  9. I thought I was going mad, spending literally entire days, neglecting some daily responsibilities, thinking about Alan Rickman's Snape after seeing his love and loyalty played out on the screen. Shouldn't it be only adolescent girls who are so wholly obsessed? I'm 51 years old! Yet, not even as an adolescent nor through the rest of my years have I ever felt this intimate of a connection with ANYONE - and he is a fictional character out of a children's book. No one knows of my love for him. I thought no one ever would understand and simply would feel I need to be locked away, divorced from my husband and kept away from influencing children. I've never written on anyone's blog, yet at last I have found someone who shares my life - which is what Severus has become. Everything I do - eat, sleep, work, think - I do with him.

    It is Alan Rickman who gave me this life. Yes, I had read all the HP books years ago, enjoying the character of Snape and feeling him as well. But Alan cast his spell, and Severus penetrated my heart, my soul. Like you, he has become my rock, and I feel I now have more control in my life, more grace. Alan is so extraordinarily elegant, and now that his Severus vibrates within every cell of my body I have become a more elegant woman myself in so many ways - people have actually commented on it. If only they knew the source!

  10. Brilliant, brilliant post!
    I wouldn't say that I am as devoted as you are, but, my god, that resonated with a part of my soul. Makes you wonder if actors, such as himself, are aware of the influence they have on people's lives.

  11. You just described my whole feelings... About those strong emotions.. I uderstand you! Im 15 years old now and im discovering the world. But like you said: im kinda like hiding in books, movies and music. And sometimes i feel strongly connected with one person. After the movie "the hobbit" i felt connected with Martin freeman (actor bilbo) and of course i had it woth alan too