British actor Alan Rickman, whose roles ranged from Hollywood villains to Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, has died from cancer, aged 69.
J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels and British actress Emma Thompson, who starred opposite Rickman in multiple films, have joined legions of fans and colleagues paying tribute to the venerable star of more than 40 films and many theatre productions.
Rickman’s signature performances span decades and genres. With his aquiline features and cultured – if often menacing – English accent, he became one of Britain’s best-known actors of stage and screen over the past 30 years with a career stretching from the Royal Shakespeare Company to sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest.
“The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends,” his family said in a statement on Thursday.
A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rickman got his big break appearing in the Broadway version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the mid-1980s, before making his first major film appearance as Hans Gruber in Die Hard soon afterwards.
That was to be the first of many performances as a villain, including Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he won a Bafta, the British equivalent of an Oscar.
He also won a Golden Globe and an Emmy and, despite his reputation for playing the “baddie”, he was also acclaimed for more sensitive roles in films such as Truly Madly Deeply, and Love, Actually.
Rowling was quick to profess her sadness at Rickman’s death, writing on Twitter that there were “no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man”, while also extending her sympathy to his family.
“Everybody loved Alan. He was always happy and fun and creative and very, very funny,” veteran British actor Michael Gambon, who played Albus Dumbledore in many of the Harry Potter films, told BBC radio.
“He had a great voice, he spoke wonderfully well, he was intelligent, he wrote plays and he directed a play. So he was a real man of the theatre and the stage.”
Thompson worked with Rickman in a range of films, including Sense and Sensibility and Love, Actually, and described him as the “ultimate ally”.
NEO Web Desk