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Alan Rickman’s Diaries: Breadcrumbs of a Fast-Moving Life

madly deeply
Truly, Madly, Deeply
The English actor Alan Rickman did not drink, or take drugs, to excess. He met his life’s partner when both were in their teens. He disliked indiscreet people and rarely betrayed a confidence, even to his diary — and thus those diaries, published now under the title “Madly, Deeply,” are fantastically dull.اضافة اعلان

Mick Jagger’s dinner party” is a typical entry, from December 2002. And that is it. What was Mick’s bathroom like? Can he mix a cocktail? Does he place, while at the table, entire heads of broccoli into that mouth? We will never know.

Like many readers, I suspect, I miss Rickman, who died of cancer in 2016. He was a droll player of haughty villains, men who looked as if they were constantly detecting faraway stinks in the air. His wrinkling lips were as expressive as many actors’ eyes.

He was Severus Snape, the despairing and sarcastic master of potions, in the Harry Potter movies. Thanks to that, there are Alan Rickman coloring books. My favorite detail here may be that he insisted on picking up even the largest checks in restaurants while uttering the words “Harry” and “Potter”.

His other films included “Die Hard,” “Truly, Madly, Deeply”, and “Love Actually.” He was the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and got off these paradigmatic lines: “That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings and call off Christmas.” He had a long and serious career in theater.

This book has been hewed from more than a million handwritten words. It is unclear if Rickman wanted these diaries published. I bet he would n
ot have. They are not embarrassing, but the entries are rarely fleshed out. Much of it reads like an aide-memoire, quickly jotted notes one might return to later for a different sort of book.

Nothing here can be held against him, but they are a bit depressing, these diaries. They run from 1993 to 2015, the years of his greatest fame. The usual rules had already begun to bend around him. His was a well-buffed life. He moved from first-class airport lounge to first-class airport lounge.

Almost every night there was a chic restaurant. In London his haunts were the River Café, J Sheekey, and the Wolseley; in New York, Balthazar, Café Cluny, and Café Loup. There are a lot of hospitality tents, sumptuous parties, and splendid hotels.

But mostly he seems harried, put upon, booked to the teeth. Not a lot of light shines through the windowpanes. He was difficult to work with, and he knew it. (“My selfishness when working takes my breath away.”) David Hare called him “the V.S. Naipaul of acting,” he reports. Naipaul was not known to suffer fools.

Rickman knew everyone in London. He attends, and speaks at, many memorial services. The boldface names who appear most regularly include Emma Thompson (who contributes a foreword), Ian McKellen, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci, Juliet Stevenson, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

If any of his friends were especially close, he does not say. His partner, the Labor Party politician Rima Horton (they finally married in 2012), does not appear often. Even in company, Rickman seems curiously alone. His wrap-up reports of big nights are often, “Very good time had by all,” or something similar. He saw so much but described so little.

It is possible to go through this book, as if with a metal detector, and retrieve shreds of tabloid coin. Ewan McGregor is self-absorbed; Sigourney Weaver muscled into his shots; Daniel Radcliffe is not much of an actor; Tim Allen (they starred in the underrated “Galaxy Quest”) is a jerk; Linda Fiorentino too often blows her lines. He often revised such opinions.

There are more cheerful moments. At the Wolseley one evening Rickman passed a table at which Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, and Ian McEwan huddled. Rushdie stood to say hello, and Rickman commented that there should be a collective noun for their table. “A remainder,” Rushdie suggested.

Rickman is not good at capturing his fellow humans in a few crunchy words. He is better on other topics. The morning after a play opens, for example, he knows the reviews are bad if no one is calling. A private man, he loathes interviews. (“Not telling you,” he says to himself, after being asked if he took home a favorite prop from the Harry Potter set.)

He despairs of awards shows yet watches them. “Oh God, how many more awards can we give ourselves?” he asks. Watching the Oscars reminds him of “apes picking fleas from each other.”

Rickman and Horton owned property in London, New York, and Tuscany. Often there was remodeling going on. (They never seem to entertain at home.) He liked crossword puzzles, and gardening. Sweeping up leaves, he comments, is good therapy.

In the manner that it takes a large ground crew to put a single fighter pilot in the air, it takes a large company of humans to move a famous actor through his days: makeup and clothing and sets and black cars and interview requests and tickets and reservations and all the rest. I wish Rickman had something, anything, to say about these people and these processes. He glides as if on a magic carpet.

It’s typical of this diary that when Rickman learned he had the aggressive form of cancer that would kill him, he simply wrote: “Dr. Landau, Harley Street. A different kind of diary now.” The editor must tell us, in a footnote, it was pancreatic cancer.

(If Rickman had written “The Metamorphosis,” it would have been one line: “Woke as bug”.)

The last months of entries are moving not because Rickman relates much about his treatment, or his hopes and fears. They are moving because he realizes he has lived so fast and hard that he has never had time to look back, to savor it all.

“Madly, Deeply” is a reminder that, as Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “What an odd thing a diary is: The things you omit are more important than those you put in.”


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