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Remembering Alan Rickman: A Look Back at a Forgotten Great Role

With the sudden passing of Alan Rickman, who succumbed to cancer, it’s time to look back at the storied career of one of modern film’s most beloved character actors. Naturally, he touched a lot of hearts and inspired many with his great performances. Best known perhaps as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, he won legions of young fans for his memorable role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film franchise. In honor of this man’s remarkable acting achievements, let’s look back at one forgotten role, but one of our favorites.

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Quigley Down Under is the story of a mane named Matt Quigley, played by Tom Selleck. He is an exceptional sharpshooter from the United States who has been hired to come to Australia to shoot wild dingos and keep cattle safe on an open ranch. Or so he thinks. When he arrives, he meets the compound’s owner, Elliott Marston, played by Rickman. Marston is taken by the sharpshooter’s incredible skill, who is able to hit a target on bullseye from 900s yards out. It earns Quigley the job and some much-deserved respect. The problem comes when he learns the real reason he’s been hired. It’s not animals he’s meant to shoot, but people. Aborigines to be precise.

Marston assures the he has permission to kill these local tribesmen, having an “arrangement” with the authorities in the area, which means bribes. Of course, Quigley takes exception to the change in plans and finds the idea of killing innocent people so distasteful, he tosses Marston out of his own house, twice. A short standoff between Quigley and Marston’s many henchmen is put to rest when Marston’s manservant, himself an Aboriginal, knocks him over the head with a frying pan, allowing Marston and his men to capture him, beat him and abandon him in the desert, two days ride from anywhere, with a local crazy women he met on the ride into Marston’s ranch.

What follows is a revenge story as Quigley makes his way back, falling for the girl and facing off against the nefarious Marston. It’s a classic tale that mostly works, but is made far better because of the lead performances. Selleck is perfectly cast as the hero with his tall stature and good looks, while Rickman steals the show as the villain. While he famously made a career in his early films as the bad guy, both with Die Hard in 1988, here, and then again in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), this forgotten gem deserves a second chance as he finds the middle ground between the ruthless killer of Hans Gruber and the crazed maniacally funny Sheriff of Nottingham.

There was a great quality to Rickman’s roles as a villain. He understood perfectly the importance of being likable but also one to be vilified. Audiences want a character that is approachable and nasty but having a little fun and his portrayals of these men were a delight simply because Rickman gave them so much weight. Not the two-dimensional bad guys that populate many action films, Rickman’s bad guys were complex, motivated, earnest and even dangerously charming. With Marston, he was perhaps the most viscous, a cold-blooded killer with a god-complex that couldn’t see right from wrong.

Watch how he is the perfect reflection of Quigley, the way he moves, his stance and the mannerisms that try to replicate the sharpshooter, the actual cowboy that Marston so longs to be and believes he is. There is a confidence in his voice but also a streak of vulnerability, one that reveals a fear of exposure as a fraud in front of the authentic Quigley. While he’s eyeing Quigley, he’s not just sizing him up, he’s soaking him in, finding traits that he knows he lacks. He’s got he costume, he’s got the accouterment, but he’s void of the personality, the texture, and most of all, the experience of his new foe.

Alan Rickman made Marston a likable bad guy, a villain we wanted to watch and couldn’t wait to see have his comeuppance. That is what all the best bad guys are made of. While the film may not be anything more than some simple action adventure, Rickman elevates it to the next level and makes this movie well worth watching. In a career that saw the man find his place on the top of any great actor’s list, it is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye far too early. His legacy is a wonderful collection of important and entertaining roles that will be long remembered and sure to last.

What are your favorite Alan Rickman roles? Let us know in the comments below.



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