Last week, our hearts were shattered into a million pieces when another British icon bid us a fine farewell – on January 14, actor Alan Rickman died at the age of 69 after a brave battle with cancer.
As the news spread like wildfire, we all took a moment to reflect on his life and his epic contribution to the entertainment world via a myriad of legendary roles over the decades. Not only did fans all over the world lament the passing of J.K. Rowling's morose Potions professor once again, but also of the man who brought the villainous sheriff of Nottingham in the blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to life. Here's the trailer for the 1991 masterpiece:
Yet let's not forget that it was Rickman's performance as Hans Gruber, the criminal mastermind at the crux of Die Hard, that essentially kick-started his movie career as one of the most sought-after villains in Hollywood. And this makes the fact that the actor almost turned down that particular role so much more surprising!
"What the hell is this?"
Less than a year before his death last week, Rickman provided this fascinating piece of information when speaking at a BAFTA celebration of his work in April 2015. In particular, he recalled his initial dislike of his first film role in Die Hard, after being offered it just two days after arriving in Los Angeles in 1987. Speaking about that time, he said:
“I didn’t know anything about LA. I didn’t know anything about the film business […] I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap.”
After reading the script for the blockbuster, he revealed that he was very underwhelmed, admitting his complete disregard for the role altogether:
“What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.”
However, with reluctance and time, he accepted the role – in fact, he admitted to being won over by the wittiness of it, as well as by the film's "positive and highly intelligent" treatment of its black characters. He admitted:
“So, 28 years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so.”
Agreeing to take on the character and perhaps testament to his passion for his craft, he still remained very outspoken about how Gruber was to be presented on the screen. This was surprising, because by that point, he didn't really have enough experience in film acting (he had been trained as a stage actor) to confidently dictate a role in such a way.
"It pays to have a little bit of theater training"
Rickman revealed that alongside it actually being his idea for Hans Gruber to wear a suit rather than the intended 'terrorist gear' (whatever that means!), it was also his suggestion that he pretend to be a hostage in the scene where he finally meets McClane.
Hoping for the best, Rickman jotted down some notes for the producer, Joel Silver, and left them on his desk. The actor recalls the initial reaction:
“I got Joel saying, ‘Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told.'"
Yet, later that day, it became apparent that his suggestions were accepted:
"When I came back, I was handed a new script. It showed that it pays to have a little bit of theater training.”
Here's one of the particular scenes that Rickman helped mould in his very own special way:
These days, it is unimaginable to think that someone else would have brought Gruber's sadistic terrorism to life, more so while wearing a suit. And just think, if Alan hadn't accepted the role, we probably would have never had laid eyes on him in his later roles! Isn't that crazy?