I don't play villains, I play very interesting people.
For someone who doesn't play villains, he is very very good at it.
After doing the standard English Man In Hollywood origin full of Shakespeare, theatre and single episode spots on the television, Alan Rickman managed to move over to the USA by serving his revenge cold as the Vicomte de Valmont (a very interesting man with some villainous qualities) in Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Broadway. Then his first big screen role was the lovable Magnificent Bastard Hans Gruber in Die Hard who set up a Batman Gambit in order to steal 600 million dollars in negotiable bearer bonds. He had to kill a few people to get the money which was certainly not very nice but he did so with memorable Bond One Liners, and personally ad-libbed the infamous "Mr. Takagi did not see it that way... so he won't be joining us for the rest of his life."
There is also the pantomime villain Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, who proved to be a better thief than that Costner fellow by stealing every scene he was in. Deliciously villainous and by far the most very interesting character in the movie.
Also while Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films is meant to be an ugly unsympathetic bastard for some reason, people keep feeling sorry for him regardless and well as feeling a few other things. Technically not a villain! Sort of. A little bit.
He also played a bad guy in Quigley Down Under, as well as Judge Turpin in the 2007 Tim Burton film version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Still there are plenty of clearly not villainous, still very interesting roles that he has done.
He played Colonel Brandon in a film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. He was the Metatron, the voice of Almighty God, in Dogma (appearing first on screen while on fire is certainly interesting), a role which he took after being a fan of Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy but which he took with one strict condition: don't change anything in the script. He was also the voice of Marvin in the 2005 film version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. In 1999 he starred in Galaxy Quest, where he played a Shakespearean actor who refused to say a line beginning with "By Grabthar's hammer". In 2003, he played a caring yet utterly deadpan office boss who may or may not have had an affair with his assistant. That one wasn't that interesting though.
Mr. Rickman provides very interesting examples of:
- The Big Guy: Thanks to his height (6'1") and his big-boned build, he's almost always the biggest person in a scene. It also explains why he's still such a great candidate to play Snape; ten years on and he's still intimidating when standing next to little cutie Daniel Radcliffe.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Despite being a prefect at Latymer Upper School, he didn't do so well in college. Until he went back for his Drama degree. Then he won every acting award RADA offered.
- Chronically-Killed Actor
- Classically-Trained Extra: His character in Galaxy Quest. Averted in real life as he seems to very much enjoy being action villains and snarky wizards.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Dramatic Pause: Is...a...big...fan.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Bottle Shock. Also, this clip of him singing a short song in French has the uploader comment "I have no idea what he is saying, but it is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard".
- Evil Brit: Resisted being typecast as a villain with an English accent. With quite a bit of success, it must be said.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Look through his filmography on IMDb. It includes Hans Gruber, The Sheriff of Nottingham, Alexander Dane, and Severus Snape and Rasputin, who is... Rasputin. Off-screen, Rickman is a low-key, modest man who stays out of the limelight, avoids the paparazzi, and when it comes to his fans, he's a giant freaking teddy bear, quick with the jokes and hugs.
- Older Than He Looks - Born February 21, 1946. He was 65 years old when the final Harry Potter film premiered. Let's put this in perspective: Michael Gambon, who portrays Headmaster Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films (a character who is meant to be 115 years old, by the way), is only 5 years older than Mr. Rickman.