Why Alan Rickman owes his success to Sam Neill

Posted On
Posted By admin

For somebody who’d never appeared in a motion picture before, it’s a testament to the towering talents of Alan Rickman that his feature debut saw him craft one of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema.

John McTiernan’s Die Hard is inarguably one of the greatest action movies ever made. While a huge amount of the credit deserved to be placed squarely on the shoulders of Bruce Willis’ charismatic everyman John McClane, there’s a reason why the old saying posits that any hero is only as good as their villain.

A fairly boilerplate terrorist role on paper, action cinema had witnessed countless sharp-suited antagonists leading a band of goons on a job that placed them in direct opposition with the main character. In Rickman’s hands, though, Hans Gruber was nothing short of sublime.

Rickman was best known prior to Die Hard for his work on the stage. He was actually left borderline affronted that on his very first visit to Hollywood, he was offered the opportunity to play a bad guy in an all-guns-blazing production.

“I read it, and I said, ‘What the hell is this, I’m not doing an action movie,’” was his initial reaction. “And agents and people said, ‘Alan, you don’t understand this doesn’t happen, you’ve only been in L.A. two days, and you’ve been asked to do this film.’”

Casting the part of McClane was tricky enough, with virtually every high-profile star in the business being either under consideration or turning down an offer. Still, even if finding the right person to bring the delectable Gruber to life was a lot more straightforward, Rickman was far from the first choice.

Sam Neill was considered the front-runner for Gruber, only to knock back the opportunity. However, he did at least get to collaborate with McTiernan a couple of years later on submarine thriller The Hunt for Red October before playing his part in anchoring another era-defining blockbuster when Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was released in 1993.

Had the New Zealander signed on, then not only would Die Hard have been a completely different animal, but there’s no guarantee Rickman’s Stateside career would have taken off anywhere near as quickly. He was too good not to make it in Hollywood, without a doubt, but blowing everyone away with an all-timer of a villain was about as spectacular a way as any to announce his arrival.

It’s impossible to imagine Die Hard without Rickman, but in an alternate universe, it would have been Neill squaring off against Willis, which would have plausibly altered the course of the future Harry Potter star’s career. The two never shared the screen, but they’re forever connected by the hands of fate.

[embedded content]

Related Topics

Related Post