With the Oscars around the corner, I decided to write a piece on something related to movies. What’s a good book without a villain or villainess? In We Will Always Have the Closet there are two, even though we really don’t find out about the second one until much closer to the end. I enjoyed writing them, in spite of my love for my MCs, just as much as I have enjoyed some of the villains of literature and film.
As I was thinking about writing this blog and going through the long list of villains I have loved in novels and in movies, I realized that some of my favorites were played by the same actor in the big screen. He was just awesome at playing the bad guy, I guess. I’m speaking of the late Alan Rickman, of course.
If you’re a young one, chances are you missed his performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves back in the day. He co-starred with Kevin Costner and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and even though he was supposed to be in a “support role”, he ruled the screen with his psychotic outbursts and his funny, yet-terrifying one liners. The most famous from that movie is when he claims he will cut Robin’s heart with a spoon. As ridiculous as the line is, Rickman made it sound terrifying and threatening.
Of course, most people today think of Harry Potter and Professor Snape when referring to this great actor. Snape is still one of my favorite villains of all times. He is slimy in his looks, his speech, and his attitude. He exudes that snake-like quality that the character has in the books and brings it to life in the screen. As much as we hate Snape there is also that side of him that makes you pity him and almost like him thanks to the genius of J.K. Rowling. If that’s hard to write, I’m sure it is as hard to show it in acting. Alan Rickman made it look easy. Watching Snape, especially toward the end of the series, was almost physically painful because you can feel the divide between that part of him that was good and loving and the persona he had become tinted by anger and hate. Rickman made Snape pop out from the pages of a book and retain his richness and depth of character. Not an easy feat as many book to screen adaptations seem to show.
I have always heard that playing a villain is much harder than playing the good guy. I always thought that was not true until one day, many years ago, when I was working as a “animateur” in a Club Med-type vacation spot. We were staging a lip-synched performance of Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha and I, being new to the entertainment world, was given a very minor part playing one of the prostitutes in the tavern where Dulcinea worked. I was supposed to look scraggly and be kind of evil, making fun of poor deluded Don Quixote. That was a total fail! Not only I couldn’t come up with a disgusting look no matter how much make-up I applied to my face (my sub-consciousness was guiding me into making me look better, not worse) but when I tried to act like the cruel woman I was supposed to be, I came across as the town idiot. Not easy being the bad guy, after all.
My hat goes off to all the amazing actors and actresses who throughout the years have brought all these rich–if not likable–characters to life in the big screen. But especially for my favorite villains played to perfection by the amazing Alan Rickman.