Today would have been your 70th birthday. And while I still have A Little Chaos, Eye in the Sky and the new Alice movie to see, what I miss most and shall miss most are your interviews. Especially those in the past few years, where you relaxed and really let your thoughts out: about the power of stories, and the responsibilities of the storytellers, of what words mean and how their power is both immutable and chameleonic. I work with words every day, telling tiny little stories--sometimes, even at less than 114 characters. What you said resonated with this other member of Walter Fisher's homo narrans.
The first film I ever remember seeing you in--not the first film I actually saw you in, just the one that made me look you up and see who you were--was ClosetLand. It reached inside my brain and gave it a good twist. When I looked you up, I realized I'd seen you in that film, and that film, and that film, and that film, and, hey! you were That Guy! And I became a fan.
And then the internet *really* took off, and we began to get interviews and transcripts from clips of shows (and much later, the actual clips), where you'd talk about the story, and the project, and your role, and so fiercely protected your privacy and your family's privacy. And I loved that. And I loved how there were so, so, SO very few "sources close to the star" who would trundle out comments about your personal life for a smattering of cash. Your friends protected your privacy, too. And that said a lot to me--the friends we have are almost always the friends we are. And nothing I've read about you since seems to prove that thesis wrong.
Those were why, soon after my dad died and I needed some extra guidance, I added you to my "personal north"--my "mind family." You fit in so well (with your discussions of integrity and the role of the artist and one's duty to humanity) with the rest of my "mind family": Walter Fisher, Lois McMaster Bujold, Thomas Paine. All of what they were saying, and all they were making the future me(s) into--all those versions of me, those possible future timelines, of who I wanted to (and could!) grow into becoming.
For many years, I'd wanted a Vorkosigan film with you in it (probably as Aral Vorkosigan), because I think you would have been so delighted with the sheer humanity in Bujold's work. And how you would have enjoyed being the Butcher of Komarr, and playing against all expectations in the role! But you didn't really like science fiction as a genre.... one of your flaws. I do hope someone talked you into reading Memory or Mirror Dance (or Paladin of Souls) for some truly great stories, though. I could see these stories and characters really setting your brain on fire.
Someone asked me, the day you died, why it mattered so much to me. You were "just an actor." Someone famous, who'd I'd only met the once at the stage door after Private Lives, and never again. What popped into mind first was a paraphrase from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice:
After a while, I realized it was about connections, and the very bones of who I am.
I liked your work, so I let it into my heart and my head. That changed who I am, and that changed all the "could-be" versions of me, as well. The work you were going to do, that I was going to see, and the interviews you were going to give in support of that work, that was all going to change my future "could-be"s as well. Your work and your words were woven into the trellis of my future growth--all those possible "me"s. So when you died, they all died, too. Those hundred thousand possible "me"s--gone. Other possible "me"s are growing to fill in those spaces, of course, but first--they all died.
And that hurts.
Some of the less-than-helpful things I was urged to do, the day you died, was to "enjoy the work he already did" and "celebrate that it existed at all." In many ways, it is little recompense to simply think back on the things that you'd already done. Emma Thompson wrote she couldn't wait to see what you were going to do with your face next. I couldn't wait to see what percolated out of your brain next. After my childhood, I got very ... leery ... about who got into my head, and what they left behind--what they left behind for me to hear at 2 in the morning, whenever I couldn't sleep. But--I liked your thoughts, so I put some of them into my head. On purpose. And now, every time I jostle one, like a broken bone, it aches.
And yet, I cannot bear to be that "me" who had never discovered your work at all.
I don't know what kind of creature I would be without your influence...
but I have my suspicions.
Goodbye, Mr. Rickman.
I shall miss you.