Alan Rickman: “One of the best-loved actors has died.”

635883560200369174-AP-OBIT-ALAN-RICKMAN-78856954 One of the best-loved and most warmly admired British actors of the past 30 years, has died in London aged 69. His death was confirmed on Thursday by his family who said that he died “surrounded by family and friends”. Rickman had been suffering from cancer.

A star whose arch features and languid diction were recognizable across the generations, Rickman found a fresh legion of fans with his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films.

Rickman blessed with a rich and deep voice, the actor brought intelligence and humanity to a wide spectrum of roles, judiciously deploying what seemed to be a bottomless supply of frowns and smirks that endeared him to his fans.

While his voice became something of a trademark, Rickman once said that he endured much criticism for it in drama school. One voice teacher, as he recalled in 2007, told Rickman that he sounded as if his voice was “coming out of the back end of a drain pipe.”

Explaining his own opinion of his voice, Rickman said, “Well, it’s what I’m stuck with, so it’s not like I can go and get another one. And also, I don’t hear what anybody else hears. So it’s always a bit of a shock, you know. And it never goes away.”

Cast and crew on those movies were among the first to pay tribute to the actor. In a lengthy post, Daniel Radcliffe wrote that Rickman was “one of the greatest actors I will ever work with” as well as “one of the loyalest and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry”.

JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, said: “There are 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 Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore, said: “Everybody loved Alan. He was always happy and fun and creative and very, very funny.”

The actor had been a big-screen staple since first shooting to global acclaim in 1988, when he starred as Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis’s sardonic, dastardly adversary in Die Hard – a part he was offered two days after arriving in Los Angeles, aged 41.

Gruber was the first of three memorable baddies played by Rickman: he was an outrageous sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as well as a terrifying Rasputin in an acclaimed 1995 HBO film.

But Rickman was also a singular leading man: in 1991, he starred as a cellist opposite Juliet Stevenson in Anthony Minghella’s affecting supernatural romance Truly, Madly, Deeply; four years later he was the honourable and modest Col Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, starring and scripted by Emma Thompson. He was to reunite with Thompson many times: they played husband and wife in 2003’s Love, Actually and former lovers in 2010 BBC drama The Song of Lunch.

But he couldn’t resist his true calling and began his acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1978.

His American breakthrough came onstage as well, with a 1987 Tony Award-nominated performance as Valmont in Les Liasons Dangereuses, a role later played by John Malkovich in the 1988 film.

He made his movie mark in 1988’s Diehard as Hans Gruber, the German terrorist who matched wits with Bruce Willis’ vacationing cop.

In the 1990s, Rickman played roles ranging from the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to Rasputin, picking up a BAFTA, A EMMY Award, a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and two Tony Nominations.

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Synopsis

Born February 21, 1946, in West London, England, Alan Rickman showed an early penchant for the performing arts. He cut his teeth as an actor in 1978, when he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. He earned a Tony Award nomination as the star of 1988’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, then came to American consciousness in 1988 as the impossibly evil terrorist Hans Gruber in the big-screen blockbuster Die Hard. His film credits include the notable Harry Potter series, as well as Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Early Life

Actor Alan Sydney Patrick Rickman was born on February 21, 1946, in West London, England. He was the second of four children born to Bernard Rickman, an Irish Catholic factory worker, and Margaret Doreen Rose Rickman, a Welsh Methodist housewife. Rickman later recalled his early years as impoverished but very happy, until his father died of lung cancer when young Alan was just 8 years old.

After showing an early predilection for art, Rickman won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London, where he appeared in several school plays, and then studied graphic design at Chelsea College Of Art And Design and the Royal College Of Art. After graduating, he started a graphic design company, Graphiti, with some friends. He met his lifetime partner Rima Horton in 1965 while in the amateur Group Court Drama Club.

At age 25, Rickman decided to apply to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “There was an inevitability about my being an actor since about the age of 7, but there were other roads that had to be traveled first,” he later said. “A voice in the head saying, ‘It’s time to do it. No excuses.'” Rickman supported himself through his two years at the RADA by taking freelance design jobs and by working as a set dresser.

Early Career

In 1978, Rickman joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in The Tempest and Love’s Labour’s Lost, among others, although he disliked the experience: “It’s a factory,” he said. “It has to be. It’s all about product endlessly churned out—not sufficiently about process. They don’t look after the young actors. … People are dropping like flies, doing too many shows at once. There ought to be someone who helps them develop.” Moving on from the RSC, Rickman spent much of the rest of the 1980s acting in BBC serials, radio dramas and repertory theater.

Breakthrough Role

The turning point in Rickman’s career came in 1985 when he took on the starring role of Le Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a part that playwright Christopher Hampton (who adapted the script from an 18th century French novel) developed with the actor specifically in mind. “Alan was able to transfix not only the viewer,” Hampton said, “but he also seemed to have a kind of hypnotic effect on the people he was playing his scenes with.”

Rickman performed the unforgettably villainous role first in London’s West End and then on Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination. In 1988, Les Liaisons Dangereuses made the leap to the big screen (as Dangerous Liaisons) with the well-known actor John Malkovich taking over the iconic part.

Villainous Roles

Having impressed as the deliciously malevolent Vicomte de Valmont, Rickman was soon tapped for his first Hollywood film role, as the impossibly evil terrorist Hans Gruber (ultimately foiled by Bruce Willis’ heroic cop John McClane) in Die Hard (1988). “I got Die Hard,” Rickman later recalled, “because I came cheap. They were paying Willis $7 million so they had to find people they could pay nothing.”

But 1991 was a big year for Alan Rickman, as he starred in three different Top 10 movies: Close My Eyes; Truly, Madly, Deeply; and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which he played an unforgettably arch Sheriff of Nottingham. This role, accentuating the first impression made in Die Hard, cemented Rickman’s image as a “villain actor”—a title Rickman disliked: “I don’t see any of [my roles] as one word. It doesn’t matter what I’m playing: it’s not one word, and I think any actor would say the same.”

‘Harry Potter’ Film Series

After his prolific year in 1991, Rickman’s output slowed down a bit later in the 1990s, although he made well-received appearances in Sense and Sensibility (1995) and in the title role of Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996), for which he received Golden Globe and Emmy Awards. He also co-wrote and directed his first feature film, The Winter Guest, in 1997, featuring his Sense and Sensibility co-star Emma Thompson and her real-life mother, Phyllida Law. Rickman also made successful comedic turns in 1999’s Dogma and Galaxy Quest.

Rickman’s next high-profile role came in the 2000s, when he took on the key part of Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. J.K. Rowling specifically wanted Rickman for the role, briefing him on unpublished backstory about the character to help him prepare for the role. “I said to Jo Rowling, ‘Look, I can’t play him unless I know him,’ ” the actor recalled. “She then gave me this elliptical piece of information that I didn’t really understand at first. It was information she hadn’t told anyone else, not even her sister, but it gave me what I needed to take on Snape.” Rickman reprised the role in all eight films.

Later Career

Rickman’s other films in the 2000s include Love Actually (2003), Snow Cake (2006), Nobel Son (2007) and Bottle Shock (2008). He twice collaborated with Tim Burton, in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). He also wrote and directed a one-woman play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, winning good reviews in both London and New York City. When asked if he ever tired of his life on center stage, Rickman replied, “No, life has shifting horizons so you might as well keep swimming.”

Following the Harry Potter films, Rickman starred in a number of diverse film roles, including playing Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) and Karl Hoffmeister in A Promise (2013). Also that year, he took on the role of Hilly Kristal, the owner of the famous New York City punk rock club in CBGB. From Bowery club owner to royalty, Rickman portrayed King Louis XIV in A Little Chaos (2014).

Off Screen

Alan Rickman secretly married Rima Horton in 2012. “It was great, because no one was there. After the ceremony in New York, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch,” Rickman told the German magazine Bild.

Rickman was the Honorary President of the International Performers Aid Trust (IPAT). The organization assists artists and performers around the world who are challenged by poverty, helping them to hone their craft for a brighter future. He was also an active patron of the charity Saving Faces.

Death

Rickman died from cancer on January 14, 2016, in London. He left behind a legion of fans, both old and new, and was considered one of the most admired British actors of the past three decades.

But his own love story was even more heartwarming than the scripted tales he was given to read.

The Hollywood star, who died aged 69 this week following a battle with cancer, married his life-long partner Rima Horton last year in a secret ceremony after 50 years together.

He met Rima in 1965 when he was 19 and she was 18 and the pair lived in London together from 1977 until his death.

Personal Life

 

When asked what the secret was to his happy relationship – in April, he dropped the wedding bombshell, telling German newspaper Bild: “We are married, just recently. It was great, because no one was there.

“After the wedding in New York we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch.”

He jokingly added that he bought his new wife a $200 dollar ring “that she never wears.”

The couple at the National Film Theatre

Speaking previously about Rima, Alan also told HELLO! magazine: “I think every relationship should be allowed to have its own rules. She’s tolerant. She’s incredibly tolerant. Unbelievably tolerant. Possibly a candidate for sainthood.”

Alan has been involved in several projects in the Big Apple, starring in the Broadway play Seminar from 2011 to 2012 and starring in the film CBGB, about the famed East Village punk-rock club.

Rima was a Labour Party councillor for the Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council from 1986 until 2006 and also worked at Kingston University as an economics lecturer.

 

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1978 Romeo and Juliet Tybalt BBC Television Shakespeare
1980 Thérèse Raquin Vidal BBC serial
1980 Shelley Clive Episode No. 1.7
1982 Busted Simon BBC TV film
1982 Smiley’s People Mr. Brownlow Episode No. 1.2
1982 The Barchester Chronicles The Rev. Obadiah Slope BBC serial
1985 Summer Season Croop BBC TV series
1985 Girls on Top Dimitri / Voice of RADA CIT TV series
1988 Die Hard Hans Gruber
1989 Revolutionary Witness Jacques Roux BBC TV short
1989 The January Man Ed, the painter
1989 Screenplay Israel Yates BBC TV series
1990 Quigley Down Under Elliot Marston
1991 Truly, Madly, Deeply Jamie
1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Sheriff of Nottingham
1991 Close My Eyes Sinclair Bryant
1991 Closet Land The Interrogator
1992 Bob Roberts Lukas Hart III
1993 Fallen Angels Dwight Billings TV series
1994 Mesmer Franz Anton Mesmer
1995 Die Hard with a Vengeance Hans Gruber Flashback
1995 An Awfully Big Adventure P.L. O’Hara
1995 Sense and Sensibility Colonel Brandon
1996 Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny Grigori Rasputin
1996 Michael Collins Éamon de Valera
1996 Castle Ghosts of Ireland Tyde Documentary
1997 The Winter Guest Man in street (uncredited) Also director and co-writer
1998 Judas Kiss Detective David Friedman
1998 Dark Harbor David Weinberg
1999 Dogma The Metatron
1999 Galaxy Quest Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus
2000 Help! I’m a Fish Joe (voice)
2001 Play Man
2001 Blow Dry Phil Allen
2001 Land of the Mammoth Cro Magnon hunter Documentary
2001 The Search for John Gissing John Gissing
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Severus Snape Released in the U.S. and South Asia under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Severus Snape
2002 King of the Hill King Philip (voice) Episode: “Joust Like a Woman”
2003 Love Actually Harry
2004 Something the Lord Made Dr. Alfred Blalock
2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Severus Snape
2005 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Severus Snape
2005 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice)
2006 Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Antoine Richis
2006 Snow Cake Alex Hughes
2007 Nobel Son Eli Michaelson
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Severus Snape
2007 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Judge Turpin
2008 Bottle Shock Steven Spurrier
2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Severus Snape
2010 Alice in Wonderland Absolem the Caterpillar (voice)
2010 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Severus Snape
2010 The Wildest Dream Noel Odell (voice) National Geographic documentary
2010 The Song of Lunch He BBC Drama Production[54]
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Severus Snape
2011 The Boy in the Bubble Narrator Animated short film
2011 Back at the Barnyard General Alien Episode: “Aliens”
2012 Gambit Lord Shahbandar
2013 The Butler Ronald Reagan
2013 A Promise Karl Hoffmeister
2013 CBGB Hilly Kristal
2013 Dust Todd
2015 A Little Chaos King Louis XIV Also director and co-writer
2015 Eye in the Sky Lieutenant General Frank Benson
2016 Alice Through the Looking Glass Absolem the Caterpillar (voice) Completed

 

 

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