Alan Rickman, the British actor who played the brooding Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” films years after his film debut as the “Die Hard” villain Hans Gruber, has died after a short battle with cancer, a source familiar with his career said Thursday.
He was 69.
A smooth-voiced London native, Rickman worked on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in UK television projects before earning his first film role: the German terrorist Gruber, opposite Bruce Willis’ John McClane, in 1988’s “Die Hard.”
He had been in Hollywood only two days.
It ended up being one of film’s more memorable villainous roles, but he told The Guardian in 2015 that he almost didn’t take it.
“What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie,” he said was his reaction after reading the script.
But, he said, the progressive storyline won him over.
“Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent,” he said. “So, 28 years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so.”
Despite wide acclaim as an actor, Rickman never won an Oscar in a career that spanned parts of four decades. He did win a BAFTA Award for supporting actor in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and was nominated three other times, including for his roles in 1990’s “Truly Madly Deeply” and “Sense and Sensibility” in 1995.
He won a Golden Globe in 1997 for best actor in the HBO biopic “Rasputin.”
Rickman is probably best known to younger filmgoers as Snape, the antagonistic and bullying wizard who, in the end, plays a crucial role in the Potter saga.
He took the role in 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” without knowing much about the role.
“People thought I knew a lot, and I didn’t,” he said. “When I was asked to do it, there were only three books written.”
But that changed over the course of the series, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.
“It was a punctuation mark in my life every year, because I would be doing other things but always come back to that, and I was always aware of my place in the story even as others around me were not,” Rickman told the newspaper.
His presence was invaluable, “Potter” producer David Heyman told the LA Times.
He had a real understanding of the character, and now looking back, you can see there was always more going on there — a look, an expression, a sentiment — that hint at what is to come,” Heyman said. “The shadow that he casts in these films is a huge one, and the emotion he conveys is immeasurable.”
Rickman fans still have a few more things to look forward to.
His film “Eye in the Sky,” about drone warfare in Kenya, is set for a March release. He also did voice work for the upcoming “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”
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