For most of his life, Alan Rickman kept diaries. After his untimely passing from pancreatic cancer in 2016, it was decided to edit and publish these journals to allow his fans to see a more intimate side of the beloved actor. With a foreword by his dear friend Emma Thompson and an afterword by his lifelong love and wife Rima Horton, Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman provides a glimpse into day to day life of an acting legend.
Remember this is a personal diary of Alan Rickman, not a memoir
Madly, Deeply was created from Alan Rickman’s personal diaries. He wrote these as his own thought exercise and to occasionally look over and reminisce. They were never meant for others to read. Moreover, they were published posthumously so there was no way for him to edit or comment on anything he wrote, there were just his original words.
Rickman acknowledges at one point that he uses short-hand and codes to record thoughts and events that even he might not understand later. It’s important to keep this in mind before you sit down to read Madly, Deeply because it’s not a story. It is not the life of Alan Rickman in the way that any biographer or autobiographer would present it. It is just the private records of his day-to-day life.
The vast majority of entries are simply locations or restaurant names, sometimes sprinkled with the names of those he was eating with. Most of the entries are very bare. There are some opinions, occasionally but these are not the diaries of an emotional teenage girl, or even of a wimpy kid.
There is no real sense of story to the entries. Sometimes things are mentioned that could be expanded into very interesting tales, but without any additional facts, the story isn’t there for us, only for him.
Madly, Deeply does provide a small glimpse into the workings of movies
While most entries are too anemic to provide much of an idea of life on set, there are a few comments that do get an idea across of just how boring being a movie actor is. Especially compared to the energy that comes across when he talks about the stage productions he’s involved in. Most of the movie work seems to be standing around and waiting.
I also was surprised by just how few days Rickman actually was on set for the movies he talks about. Even in movies that it felt like he was a huge part of (the Harry Potter movies, for example), he seems to spend only a few days to a couple of weeks at most working on set. That surprised me.
A nice organizational system
I hear you “Luna, a diary is organized already, by DATE!” Yes, I know that. But in Madly, Deeply, each year is started with a header that lists all the major topics, places, and people that are covered in that year. And they’re listed in chronological order.
So say you really want to read about Snape’s death scene in Harry Potter 7, you can just skim the headings until you see “Harry Potter 7”, then flip through that year to about where it appeared chronologically in the heading and boom! You can read about Snape’s death without reading about the previous decade. It was a very useful tool when first skimming through the book.
Additionally, there is an index in the back that lists all the different topics, locations, people, and projects that Rickman mentions in his diary along with page numbers they were mentioned on. This is another extremely helpful tool that the editor was so kind to include.
My favorite parts of Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman
While it was interesting to see Rickman’s thoughts on certain subjects, for a diary Madly, Deeply was rather lacking in thoughts and insights. One of the biggest insights might have been on January 2 of 2000 when Rickman says “this diary has become…a record…there is a resolution…to stretch the boundaries…try not to leave so much unsaid, put it in a note WHEN I THINK IT…less enigma…” Unfortunately, Rickman doesn’t manage to keep that resolution. This almost made Rickman less like a real person when reading it, and more like a camera taking quick snapshots without context.
The balance for this came from my three favorite parts: Emma Thompson’s foreword, the photo collection in the center, and Rima Horton’s afterword. Of the three, Rima made Rickman feel most like a real person. She describes his last few weeks, and her love for him shines through in every word. She speaks of him placing others before himself, even as he’s dying. And she paints pictures of a man who just wants to spend a quiet, happy time with his family and friends before leaving. It was beautiful.
Thompson’s foreword was also nice but was more like a hero-worship piece. She too paints a picture of a wonderful, selfless man but her description puts Rickman up on a pedestal and makes him more than a man. Something that, from his diary entries and Rima’s description, he clearly wouldn’t have wanted. I don’t blame Thompson, she was his friend for a long time and obviously thinks he was wonderful (which by all descriptions he was), it was just a less human picture than the one Horton gave.
The pictures in the center also humanized Rickman. They were mostly from various projects he worked on but some were personal. And the pictures of his actual diary pages were amazing. Rickman wasn’t just an actor but a pretty talented artist and doodler. He covered the pages with beautifully drawn and colored sketches that corresponded to his entries. Seeing them was a real treat.
This one’s for die-hard fans of Rickman and his work, not casual viewers
While parts of Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman were interesting, most readers will probably find the straight diary format of the book off-putting. We tend to expect a story in our biographies and Madly, Deeply lacks the detail and connections to make it a story.
Die-hard fans (no pun intended) will love this look into Rickman’s daily life. But those who are just more casual fans, or are expecting juicy tales from behind the scenes will be bored. Now, this is not meant to be a criticism of Mr. Rickman or what he wrote because he never intended his words for anyone other than himself. It is just my opinion on how interesting others will find these personal notes.
My Rating: 6/10
Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman is available now! Have you read it? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Beyond the Wand!