Alan Rickman, star of stage and screen and a giant among the British creative industries, has passed away at the age of 69 in London, his family confirmed Thursday. The much-loved actor and director had been suffering from cancer.
Rickman was perhaps best known by modern audiences as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series and Hans Gruber in Die Hard, his break-out appearance in Hollywood, roles for which his unmistakable voice – perhaps his most iconic feature – made him a perfect fit.
After a brief foray into graphic design as a young adult, Rickman gained a scholarship to RADA in 1972, where he studied until 1974. From RADA, Rickman entered into the local theatre circuit, and was eventually nominated for a Tony award for his role as Valmont in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1986 production, Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
His breakout film role came with Die Hard in 1988, which was followed by appearances as the Sherriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – for which he won a BAFTA – and Colonel Brandon in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility. In 1996, he starred as Éamon de Valera in the Oscar-winning Michael Collins, before turning his hand to Severus Snape over eight films from 2001 to 2011.
Perhaps best known for his dramatic ability, over the years Rickman took on a number of comedy roles, too, including a spoof of his own persona in 2000’s Galaxy Quest, an appearance alongside Emma Thompson (an actor with whom he worked often) in the much-adored Love Actually, and an appearance in 2012’s Gambit, written by the Coen Brothers.
He gave voice to a number of characters, too, including Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, released in 2005, and Absolem the Caterpillar in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. That character will likely be his final role in this year’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
In recent years, he achieved success as a director, both on stage and screen. In 1997 he made his directorial debut on film with The Winter Guest, starring Emma Thompson, which was met warmly by critics. In 2005, he directed the award-winning play My Name is Rachel Corrie, and just last year his second movie as director, A Little Chaos, in which he also starred as King Louis XIV, was released.
He recently served as Vice Chairman of the RADA council and as part of RADA’s Artistic Advisory Committee, and championed the value of scholarships for those wanting to get into the creative industries.
A giant of stage and screen may have left us, but he leaves behind a vast body of work that will be enjoyed and remembered for years to come.
Featured image: Mark Blinch/Reuters/Corbis