I imagine most people have an Alan Rickman role that is their default for him. For some, it might be one of his rogue’s gallery of villains (like Hans Gruber in Die Hard) or perhaps one of his rarer romantic roles (Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility or Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply) or his cryptic Snape in the Harry Potter movies.
For me, it’s probably a mish mash of Gruber, his hilariously put-upon Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, and his condescending Obadiah Slope in The Barchester Chronicles (an early role).
Rickman died nearly seven years ago, the terminal cancer that took him a closely guarded secret from the public until his passing. Rickman had been a diligent diarist for years, and there has been mixed information on whether Rickman intended to publish these diaries. Regardless of his intentions, this collection of his diary entries were released last month.
Reading other people’s diaries has always intrigued me. I don’t mean snooping through other people’s diaries! That’s not okay, but as someone who started her first diary at 6 and has been far more diligent about it, on and off, since I was 12, I am always curious about how other people record their lived experiences, regardless of their time and place and station in life.
Rickman’s diaries are, in many ways, what you’d expect Rickman’s diaries to be if you have any passing familiarity with his private life. They can be quite funny and insightful, but there is a guardedness to them. Rickman is not particularly effusive in any of his entries–his flippant one- and two-line reviews of movies he’s watched were a particular highlight for me–but the combined effect makes for an interesting snapshot of Rickman’s life over a thirty-year period (1993 to 2015), combining filming with premieres and interviews (which he loathed) as well as more mundane, everyday domestic details, like sorting mail and laundry.
Rickman is not always particularly analytical, though he certainly is opinionated, but he has a real knack for setting the scene and describing the many places he traveled to during the course of his career.
He also devotes a lot of time to working through his frustrations on set. He clearly put a lot of thought into his craft and was often frustrated with directors who had a less process-driven result, but he also readily admits to being difficult and thin-skinned as well and spends a fair amount of time wondering if he’s overreacting. Balancing out some of his more cutting comments about coworkers–some of which are bafflingly random while others seem quite on point–he is very generous with praise also and those passages can be disarmingly sweet.
Though I did enjoy reading the diary entries, I found the editing for them a bit inconsistent. Diary entries, by their very nature, can be cryptic to any outsider, and some of the better published diaries I’ve read include vigorous supplementation to shine light on the more obscure references. Rickman’s diary does have some notes on who certain people are–a lot of famous names are dropped in passing–or what Rickman is talking about, but it is not always applied consistently. Given that Rickman himself at one point bemusedly wonders if he’ll even remember some of the clipped references he’s making a few years down the road, a more thorough annotation would have been useful and made the book more broadly accessible.
There are some photos that include the original pages. Rickman had a background in graphic design before getting into acting, and his original diaries included vibrant illustrations. I wish the book would have been more proactive in preserving this element of the originals because they are a charming element that is largely lost.
Still, it’s an intriguing, entertaining read, especially for movie buffs.
Recommended for fans of Rickman and/or diarists.
What’s your favorite Rickman role? Who is your favorite diarist? Do you keep a diary? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this item or to place it on hold.