Alan Rickman, legendary English actor, died Thursday morning at the age of 69. He had been suffering from cancer and passed away surrounded by family and friends.
Rickman was perhaps best known for his villainous roles as Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard, Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series, and the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Born February 21st, 1946 to a working class family in Acton, London, England, Rickman was one of four children raised by his mother after his father died at age eight. He attended several schools, eventually landing a scholarship to London’s Latymer Upper School, where he studied drama before leaving shortly to learn about graphic art at Chelsea College of Art and Design.
Following a short-lived career as a graphic designer, having worked at the Notting Hill Herald and running a studio with friends called Graphiti, Rickman felt determined to pursue acting. He wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he would study for two extraordinary years and win the Emile Littler Prize, the Forbes Robertson Prize, and the Bancroft Gold Medal.
From there, Rickman spent many years working in theater, specifically British repertory and experimental theatre groups. In 1978, he appeared as Tybalt in the BBC television adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which tipped off a series of television roles and appearances, from 1980’s Thérèse Raquin to 1982’s The Barchester Chronicles to 1985’s Girls on Top.
It was his role, however, as German mastermind and terrorist leader Hans Gruber in John McTiernan’s iconic blockbuster Die Hard that started turning heads in Hollywood. The nefarious antagonist to Bruce Willis’ cowboy hero John McClane rightfully earned him the 46th spot in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains.
By 1991, after his hilarious turn as Sheriff of Nottingham in Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Rickman was hesitant on being typecast as a villain. This decision led to varied roles throughout the decade, such as Col. Brandon in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, Sir Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus in Dean Parisot’s Galaxy Quest, and the voice of God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma.
He won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his titular role in HBO’s Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny. The following year he co-wrote and directed Emma Thompson in 1997’s The Winter Guest.
In the early aughts, Rickman landed what would become his most iconic role: Professor Severus Snape in the long-running blockbuster adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s world renown Harry Potter series. He played the role eight times from 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone all the way to 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Between those years, however, Rickman continued to deliver memorable performances in everything from 2003’s Love Actually to 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to 2007’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Following Potter, he returned to directing, this time Kate Winslet, in 2014’s British period drama film, A Little Chaos.
Rickman’s most recent work included Gavin Hood’s 2015 thriller, Eye in the Sky, which also starred Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Barkhad Abdi. He will star in the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland followup, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which hits theaters May 27th, 2016.
He is survived by his wife, Rima Horton.