LONDON — British actor and director Alan Rickman, whose films included the “Harry Potter” franchise, “Die Hard” and “Truly Madly Deeply,” died of cancer in London on Thursday. He was 69.
His Hollywood roles included Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, which earned him a legion of new fans. Rickman brought the beloved book character to life, carrying him through the saga in which his role ended up being pivotal to Potter’s fate. He recently completed “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” in which he delivered the voice of the Blue Caterpillar.
Rickman was little known in the United States before his fascinating turn as vaguely German villain Hans Gruber in John McTiernan’s “Die Hard”; Gruber’s motives at first seem relatively idealistic until Bruce Willis’ John McClane realizes that the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza is just a high-stakes robbery. As McClane single-handedly destroys the plot, Rickman’s Gruber watched in delicious disbelief. The extraordinary success of the film elevated the careers of everyone involved, including Rickman.
As an actor, Rickman won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for TV biopic “Rasputin,” and a Bafta for “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” in which he played villain the Sheriff of Nottingham. He was Bafta-nominated for “Michael Collins,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Truly Madly Deeply.”
In his review of “Sense and Sensibility,” Roger Ebert wrote: “The next man to appear is Col. Brandon, played by that indispensable villain Alan Rickman, who is not a villain this time but seems to be, with his dark, brooding air and the speaking style of a sentimental hangman.”
Anthony Minghella’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply” was a supernatural love story akin to “Ghost.” Rickman’s character has died, but he has never left the side of Juliet Stevenson’s character. The Washington Post said: “Rickman gives a wonderfully sleepy performance. The afterlife has left him tired and pale. His speech is slow, his lips are cold and he blames the government for just about everything.”
Rickman won over many millennials as the cheating husband in “Love Actually” while also starring in those comedies “Galaxy Quest” and “Dogma.”
He made his directorial debut with 1997’s “The Winter Guest,” which played in competition in Venice, and also directed 2014’s “A Little Chaos,” which ran at the Toronto Film Festival. On stage he directed the controversial play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”
Rickman is survived by his wife, Rima Horton, whom he married last year. The couple had lived together since 1977.