Alan Rickman has been in the business for over 30 years, bringing to life some of our favorite characters, including Snape in the Harry Potter septology, and the guy you kind of hated in everyone's favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually.
Now he's adding director to his résumé with the film A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Rickman as King Louis XIV. We sat down with him to talk about the film, his relationship with longtime friend Kate Winslet, and about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts.
You directed and acted in the film. What were some of the obstacles you faced juggling both jobs?
I wasn't acting in it too much. So that was the first clever decision I made. I'm not in it too much, so I don't need to worry about it overly. I think when you're making a film, especially when a lot of it is outdoors and you're in England, you're staring at the sky a lot. And then you're staring at your watch a lot. And then there are a lot of other people looking in their wallets a lot. So it's the usual thing. They are the obstacles, and they're the ones you need to jump over all the time.
Was there a time in your career when you had a major setback? What pushed you through?
You could ask any actor about their early days, and I think you know — if you decide you're going to do it, and then you train and you've committed — you know there are going to be long periods out of work. And I wasn't different than anybody else. I know there are some lucky young actors now, they get made a star in a minute, and you worry a little for the moment when that gets snatched away. It's a different world now. I don't remember it now, but I'm sure the difficult moments made me stronger, or at least that's what I've trained myself to think.
How has your relationship with Kate Winslet changed, and grown, since you filmed Sense and Sensibility together 20 years ago?
She's still the same great human being, but there's a lot of life history with her now, and three children. She was 19 — you can write the story really: There's a 19-year-old girl and here's a 40-year-old woman with three children and all sorts of dear-diary entries. I am the beneficiary of having a thinking, feeling, strong-minded, brilliant woman on the set. All of those things were true then, but she was 19 years old.
We are very excited about J.K. Rowling's new movie The Fantastic Beasts—
See, I didn't even know what it was called!
What do you think she'll bring to the table as a screenwriter?
Is she going to write the screenplay? I didn't know that. Talk about smart, strong-minded, brilliant women — there's another one, and she'll make damn sure it's worth waiting for.
If you could be reborn in any era, which would it be?
I think I'd love to go Versailles when it was being built, to see what was really going on. When we went to Versailles on a field trip, the guy who's a Louis expert told us that every night they had to light 10,000 candles there. Just imagine lighting 100 candles. Then think about 10,000 every night. And that always makes me really want to go back to Elizabethan England as well, and see what was it like when there was a first night of a Shakespeare play.
Which wig did you prefer: the one you wore in this movie or the one you wore for Snape?
Well, the one I wore in this film took a lot less time to go in. Because you just plonk it on your head and it kind of weighs itself down.
The Snape one, of course, has to be very carefully glued in, so there were times you just thought, Please, let this be over!
Do you prefer order or chaos?
Both, because the point is you can't have one without the other.
There is no chaos without knowing what some order is. You have to destroy it so it's not an over-ordered life — you need to make a mess.