Alan Rickman, Watchable Villain in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Die Hard,’ Dies at 69
By DAVE ITZKOFF and KATIE ROGERS
JAN. 14, 2016
Alan Rickman, the accomplished British stage actor who brought an erudite dignity to film roles like Hans Gruber, the nefarious mastermind of “Die Hard,” and Severus Snape, the dour master of potions in the “Harry Potter” series, died on Thursday in London. He was 69.
His death was confirmed by a publicist, Catherine Olim, who said the cause was cancer.
In an acting career of more than 40 years, Mr. Rickman, with his sensuous, shadowy purr of a voice and often an enigmatic grin, played a panoply of characters whose outward villainy often concealed more complicated emotions and motivations.
Mr. Rickman, who attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, had his early successes in stage works like the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1985 production of Christopher Hampton’s “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” in which, in a leading role, he played the manipulative Vicomte de Valmont. He earned a Tony Award nomination for the performance after the production transferred to Broadway in 1987.
Mr. Rickman gained a worldwide audience the following year in “Die Hard,” the first of the Hollywood action-thriller franchise, playing Gruber, the devious, well-spoken terrorist whose takeover of the fictional Nakatomi Plaza building in Los Angeles is foiled by the resourceful police officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis.
Mr. Rickman wrung every malevolent drop that he could from Gruber’s boastful lines. (“Who are you?” he asks McClane, who is constantly frustrating his plans. “Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne?”)
Some 13 years later, Mr. Rickman brought nuance to the role of Severus Snape, a sarcastic, cutting instructor at the Hogwarts school in the “Harry Potter” franchise, adapted from J. K. Rowling’s best-selling novels. The character was introduced on screen in the 2001 film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Professor Snape seemed at first to be a traditional foil for the titular protagonist, but through Mr. Rickman’s increasingly intricate performances over eight films, he would be revealed as having had a more crucial and courageous role in the young hero’s life.
Mr. Rickman saw the mysterious Professor Snape as an unusually complex character, he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2012, and he signed on without a clear idea of how the character would evolve over the course of the series, which ended with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.”
Alan Rickman’s Best Roles
Remembering the late star’s on-screen achievements
The Best of Alan Rickman
Acclaimed British actor Alan Rickman has died at the age of 69. The beloved star, who made the transition from the stage to the big screen in the 1980s, passed away in London after a battle with cancer, his representative confirmed to the Guardian. Film audiences first met Rickman in 1988 with the debut of Die Hard, and spent the following decades catching him in everything from dramas to romantic-comedies to celebrated adaptations. Ahead, see the late star’s greatest on-screen roles.
The Harry Potter Film Series (2001 – 2011)
Leave it to Rickman to make fans fall in love with a seemingly villainous character. The actor first brought Severus Snape to the big screen in 2001, with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He continued his turn as the complicated Hogwarts professor in the following seven movies, slowly revealing the depth and true intentions of the man who Harry Potter once saw as his greatest enemy. Now nearly inseparable from the role, he finally said goodbye to Snape as his character’s heartbreaking death was depicted in 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.