Not to diminish his striking appearance: That noble nose, the formidable forehead, that subtle and bittersweet smile.

But it was the voice, wasn’t it? Sonorous, authoritative, superior, and so easily spoofed (best by Bendedict Cumberbatch). That was Alan Rickman’s signature. With him, even casual conversation sounded like poetry.

He seemed born to play theatrical villains who think of themselves as sophisticated and debonair.

And yet, for all of his beloved turns, it is his role as Colonel Brandon, who swoons over Kate Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood, in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, that I love most. He demonstrated phenomenal range there, deftly persuading us that a man of integrity, heart, and abiding love could move with authority through that world of pretense, hypocrisy, and greed. That was a rare appearance of a male character whose courage and greatness was displayed through love and fidelity rather than violence.

Few actors find their perfect on-stage/on-camera counterpart. Rickman did: He seemed the perfect project partner for Emma Thompson; we should have seen them as co-leads in more romances. They were made to be together onscreen. If you haven’t seen 2010’s The Song of Lunch, which is about a turbulent reunion between former lovers at an Italian restaurant in Soho… you should. It may not be the greatest love story ever told, but the film is a symphony of Rickman’s subtle facial expressions.

In fact… here’s the whole thing for you.

But even more impressive than his chemistry with Thompson… his 50-year relationship with “the love of his life,” Rima Horton, the woman he married only a few months before we lost him.

Here was a celebrity who knew how to be a celebrity: By working — playing characters, directing films — with obvious love, and then by going home and having a good life off-camera without needing to get attention for himself. One of the reasons I admire him is that I know so little about him outside of what he made. May many others take note of dearly he was loved for his work, and how what we know of him now — his kindness, his generosity, his wit — we know now from those who worked with him, not from petty disputes, from corporate maneuvers, or from turning himself into a brand.

I had hoped to see a late-career victory lap of great performances from Rickman. He deserved more, and greater, roles than those he had. But he made every opportunity something unforgettable. Nothing was too ambitious, not even living up to fan expectations of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. And nothing… by Grabthar’s hammer, nothing was too ridiculous for him. Not even this…

There was, will only ever be, one Alan Rickman.

May he rest in the peace and grace of God.

Feel free to post your own reflections or favorite moments in Comments below, or here: Looking Closer’s Facebook page.

One more thing…

We must acknowledge that today the torch officially passes to Rickman’s obvious onscreen heir, one who can speak with the same kind of authority… and who is well aware of the resemblance.

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