The much-loved actor, Alan Rickman who starred in iconic films, Sense and Sensibility, and Harry Potter was an avid diary-keeper.
We first had the pleasure of setting our sights on Alan Rickman in 1988 in the action thriller Die Hard. Cast opposite Bruce Willis as the villainous Hans Gruber. Rickman’s devil-may-care attitude was well received, securing him a healthy fan base who loved nothing more than to watch his perfect scowl light up the screen.
The 1990 romantic comedy, Truly, Madly, Deeply followed, but it was Rickman’s glare, that outshone Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which his performance as Sheriff of Nottingham was unforgettable.
It was just after Robin Hood that Rickman began keeping regular diary entries. In particular, for Sense and Sensibility, in which he played, a devastatingly moral and heroic Colonel Brandon.
Emma Thompson phones [about Sense and Sensibility]. OK I’m [going to] meet him [Ang Lee].
Talk to Emma. “Her people” and “my people” now.
3pm To Ang Lee. He gets the Sensibility, what’s the Sense? How to play, how to shoot Brandon, “the only strong man in the story”. I said: “I’ll be doing it, you’ll just have to shoot it.”
Dublin. 8pm Irish premiere [of An Awfully Big Adventure]. Feel like an elder statesman reading the letter from Mike [Newell].
10am Wandering the Dublin streets before getting back to the Shelbourne for 11am to find – ! – Neil Jordan and Stephen Woolley re The Big Fella [eventually named Michael Collins]. Will I do it [play Eamon de Valera]? Lose weight? What other commitments?
Collected [at Plymouth station]. 20 mins drive to the location [for Sense and Sensibility]. At lunchtime the trailer fills up with Imogen Stubbs, Gemma Jones, Emma Thompson – Imogen & Emma all Austened-up. Gemma in hiking boots … Spend the pm doing hair and makeup. Somewhere around 8 we do the required stand up, sit down, look left, look right in a somewhat tight atmosphere, not to mention coat. Gently humiliating.
9.35 Train back to London.
Still feeling faintly depressed by yesterday. So much attention to “The Look”. What about “The Content”? And what about creating a working environment with Ang – who, reading between the already apparent lines, is used to “conducting” his actors, rather than nurturing.
A 6.15 wake up for my first actual day on Sense and Sensibility. Makeup and hair becomes a gentle negotiation – hair, especially. Heated rollers eventually win. Kate W looking so beautiful in her gilded wedding gown. Emma T with her eyes everywhere. Harriet W & I uncool enough to admit just enjoying being here.
Drinks in the bar at 8pm – Emma, Imelda, Hugh L[aurie], Hugh G[rant], Gemma Jones, Harriet, Kate W. Hugh G his usual snappy, sharp, acid self. In to dinner with 2 x Hugh, Harriet & me. The conversation moves away from gossip and we talk of British & US film production. Hugh Laurie turns out to be an action movie freak. Hugh G is fascinated by figures, fees, %.
I’m beginning to get the hang of Ang.
Emma’s danger is of knowing everything. She can’t, no one can.
And another day not called. Lunch on the set. Then into boots and breeches and off to the stables.
Another 7.30 wake up. Another day not being used. The sun shines. They do something else.
7am call – and finally I’m on … As it turns out the scene becomes a nightmare of rushed decisions, manipulations, too many looks. It isn’t thought through so time is wasted … Which means that acting is out the window … I end the day feeling humiliated and angry – but I can’t show it.
Sunday am. I am reminded, watching Emma with crew, director, producers, fellow actors, of a young girl arranging her dolls in her pretend classroom.
7.20am pick-up to go to Heathrow and Dublin [for Michael Collins].
As I got out of the car [in Dublin], there is Julia Roberts, her waist is the most encirclable. Upstairs to find Liam [Neeson] & Aidan [Quinn]. Neil Jordan arrives a few minutes later – we all sit down and talk through the de Valera scenes. Neil is his usual jitterbugging self – like a grasshopper nipping from topic to topic.
To Shepperton [for Sense and Sensibility] … Of course, the set, the newspapers, the TV and everywhere is obsessed with Hugh Grant and his Sunset trick … [he was arrested in LA with a sex worker] So many column inches, so many other things we should concern ourselves with. The scenes feel as if they are being ticked off now … Ang seems nervous. He probably needs a hug. Like Hugh.
A few years later in 2014, Rickman went on to co-write and direct A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet.
This is our last official day of shooting. Kate is now 16 (?) weeks pregnant and giving everything. By the end of each day she is wiped but still unbelievably focused.
6.15 To Chenies.
Kate gives so little of herself – everything as an actor – but there is never a moment where she finds out anything about her fellow actors – or even says bravo or thank you. Strange to witness. Such a deliberately erected wall.
Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman (Allen & Unwin) is out November 1st.