• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #14: Hans Gruber


He won't be joining us for the rest of his life.

Die Hard was supposed to be Bruce Willis' movie. An action flick, a shoot-'em-up. And it was, with classic lines and lots of bullets and blood. But in the middle of it, there was this charismatic villain who owned the screen every moment he was on it, a suave, mercurial monster you found yourself kind of rooting for. He was just a thief, really, a common criminal, but with such personality that he transcended the film's genre constraints and became a fan favorite.

For many of us, it was our introduction to the towering talent of Alan Rickman, and the full spectrum of his range was on display. The cool, laconic reserve of the Potions master at Hogwarts. The frenetic, almost Shatneresque stitled diction of the Sheriff of Nottingham. The weary ennui of Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus. The impatient acerbity of husband Harry. Hans Gruber was fifteen people, and Alan Rickman let them all out to play.

I had Gruber scheduled for later in the year, among other characters who are probably on this list in large measure because Alan Rickman breathed such unique and memorable life into them. I'm not sure if Gruber is my favorite Rickman role, but it was the first, and it's how I choose to honor him today as he leaves us. He left an indelible mark on our popular culture, and it saddens me that he won't be joining us for the rest of his life. Happy trails, Hans.

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