Remembering the Stars of the Screen and Stage

February 10, 2016
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By Sarah Stopforth & Mae Anthony
Art by Matthew Bedford

Born on February 21, 1946, in Hammersmith, London, Alan Rickman was a world-renowned stage actor and film star. He was born to Margaret Doreen Rose and Bernard Rickman as one of their four children. His mother struggled to raise them all when his father tragically passed away when Alan was eight years old. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, one of the oldest and most prestigious drama schools in the United Kingdom, and studied there from 1972-74. He further honed his craft with several experimental and fringe theatre groups, including the Royal Court Theatre. In 1978 he played the role of Juliet’s ill-tempered cousin Tybalt in a BBC adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

He garnered significant acclaim and attention for his role on Broadway as Vicomte in Les Liaison’s Dangereuses, earning a Tony Award nomination in the process. It was the first role of many roles where Rickman would get to project his particular brand of alluring, silky menace. His costar Lindsay Duncan told the Independent on Sunday in 1992, “A lot of people left the theatre wanting to have sex, and most of them wanted to have it with Alan Rickman.”

That role may have put him on the map, but terrorist leader Hans Grubber would launch him into the stratosphere with 1988’s big budget action extravaganza, Die Hard. Hans Grubber was the perfect foil for Bruce Willis’ schlubby, everyman cowboy hero John McClane: stylish, well spoken, merciless, and vaguely European. Rickman proved he wasn’t just a great stage actor with Die Hard, but an honest to goodness movie star – he couldn’t help but bring shades of charisma and humanity to even the most cartoony roles.

Not one to be typecast, his role as Jaime, a cellist who returns from the hereafter to comfort his grieving pianist girlfriend, in the 1991 romantic fantasy Truly Madly Deeply offered the closest insight into the real Rickman, according to friends – a benignly droll and lovely man.

Rickman earned his place in the pantheon of actors with multigenerational appeal with his role as Severus Snape in the cinematic adaptations of Harry Potter – the reverence and effortless magnetism he imbued in one of Young Adult fiction’s most complex figures has yet to be topped in the current glut of Young Adult big screen adaptations.

Alan Rickman tragically died of pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016. He is survived by his spouse of four years, Rima Horton.

The most heart-warming thing about the life and career of Alan Rickman is that no matter what work he was doing or what success he gained, he still remained a wise, down to earth person, dedicated to changing the world, one character at a time. Rickman is proof that it is never too late to chase your dreams. He started a successful graphic design business, but decided it was now or never to chase the acting dream. He wrote a letter, asking Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to audition, and they said yes.

After graduating RADA in 1974, the years of little work in mediocre roles never dwindled his drive or passion for what he was doing.

It’s what I’m built to do. [laughs] Until one finds something else, that’s what I do…
It’s not just work, it’s your life.”

Rickman firmly believed that Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” When you have that kind of attitude towards your career and life, combined with unwavering talent, it is no wonder that Sir Alan Rickman was so well loved throughout the world, and why our hearts ache at the fact that he is no longer here to show us through his characters and remind us of why it is we do what we do…

One month has passed since the unexpected death of British musician and icon David Bowie. Still fresh and hard-hitting for many who loved his music and his outlandish personality, it is hard to pin-point what made Bowie so special. He has created so many memorable and treasured cultural artefacts throughout his career. Looking back on a life filled with such vitality and creative buzz there is no doubt that he was loved so dearly and by so many.

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David Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947. During his early school days Bowie was recognised as a gifted child. He was in the school choir and, rather amusingly, was a talented recorder player who demonstrated above-average abilities. He was considered by many teachers to be strikingly imaginative in his interpretations in both movement and music. His earliest influences include Little Richard, the Platters, Fats Domino, and Elvis Presley. He became obsessed with music shortly after and took up ukulele, tea-chest bass and piano. His interest in Jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Charles Mingus led to his interest in the saxophone, thus expanding his musical knowledge.

At school his good friend George Underwood, who later went on to design the artwork for Bowie’s early albums, punched him in the eye during a heated row over a girl. After a series of operations and a hospitalisation of four months, he was left with faulty depth perception, and physical symptoms of a permanently dilated pupil, which also gave the impression that he had two different coloured eyes. This minor deformity became part of his artistic brand, particularly with that of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie released twenty-seven studio albums in his extensive career. Some of his most successful albums include The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Station to Station (1975), Heroes (1977), Low (1977) and Let’s Dance (1984). His most recent album, Blackstar (2016), was received with critical acclaim and strong sales. It peaked at No. 1 in various album charts around the world and it was the first of his studio albums to reach No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. His shocking death opened the floodgates of his legacy with January 20 being declared as official David Bowie Day in New York City.

Throughout his career, David Bowie sold over 140 million albums. In 1996, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He took on a variety of personas in his musical career, and he also took part in many acting roles throughout his life, both in theatre and in film/television. In fact, he partook in acting projects prior to becoming a commercial musician. Notable films include The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Just a Gigolo (1978), The Hunger (1983), Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Labyrinth (1986). He had numerous cameo appearances, one of which was in Yellowbeard (1983), a comedy by The Pythons. He also starred in various stage productions, including Pierrot in Turquoise (1967) and The Elephant Man (1980-1981),

Bowie influenced nearly every subsequent artist. Prominent artists/bands he influenced include Queen, Lou Reed, The Cure, Madonna, The Smiths, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and Lady Gaga. How could he not have influenced so many successful artists what with his vast array of styles reaching endlessly over five decades of music? And what of the future? Just because he is no longer writing music does not mean that it will not continue to influence the musical creations of future artists. Unsurprisingly, Bowie’s influence was so limitless that it was part of the careers of people from the classical music world. 20th Century American minimalist composer Philip Glass based his first Symphony, the “Low” Symphony and fourth symphony, Symphony No. 4 “Heroes”, on David Bowie’s albums “Low” and “Heroes”, respectively.

David Bowie died after a lengthy battle with cancer on January 10, 2016, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final studio album Blackstar. His death left many mourning fans feeling empty and heartbroken. His legacy was strong not only because of the music he performed, but because he was a shining light in the midst of an eternal darkness created by the constantly evolving music scene. He embraced cultural change at every unexpected turn whilst still remaining true to an ethos of good tunes, grandeur artistry and skill. Many say that his uniqueness and lack of fear in being himself was one of the most inspiring things about him. He will be greatly missed for years to come by both fans and musicians everywhere.

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