Alan Rickman, Giant Of British Film And Theatre, Dies At 69
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 recognisable across the generations, Rickman found a fresh legion of fans with his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. But 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.
In 1995, he directed Thompson and her mother, Phyllida Law, in his directorial debut, the acclaimed Scottish drama The Winter Guest. Last year, he reunited with Kate Winslet, another Sense and Sensibility co-star, for his second film as director, A Little Chaos – a period romance set in the gardens of Versailles.
Yet it was Rickman’s work on stage that established him as such a compelling talent, and to which he returned throughout his career. After graduating from Rada, the actor supported himself as a dresser for the likes of Nigel Hawthorne and Ralph Richardson before finding work with the Royal Shakespeare Company (as well as on TV as the slithery Reverend Slope in The Barchester Chronicles).
His sensational breakthrough came in 1986 as Valmont, the mordant seducer in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He was nominated for a Tony for the part; Lindsay Duncan memorably said of her co-star’s sonorous performance that audiences would leave the theatre wanting to have sex “and preferably with Alan Rickman”.