Alan Rickamn, the actor who made sneering villains so much fun to watch on the big screen, has died in London. His passing was reported by London paper The Guardian, this morning. Rickman had been suffering from cancer He was 69.
Rickman first burst into most movie fans minds as Hans Gruber, the dapperly dressed villain of the 1988’s action hit Die Hard. It was hist first film role, following a string of work in British television and it was a powerhouse performance that launched his career to its next level. Reportedly, Rickman won the role after having arrived in Los Angeles just two days earlier. In later interviews, Rickman would state that he was reticent about even doing an action film. But once he decided to, it was his idea to have Gruber dressed in a suit instead of the standard para-military gear that the script called for. It was that decision that opened up the story beat where Gruber tries to trick Bruce Willis’ hero cop John McClane that he was one of the other hostages captured by the terrorists who have seized an office instead of being the one who has lead that terrorist raid.
Rickman would parlay a knack for sardonic villains in such films as the political satire Bob Roberts, where he played a scheming campaign manager, and 1991s’ Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, where his Sheriff of Nottingham was about the only highlight.
Perhaps the only role that was any bigger for Rickman than Hans Gruber was that of Severus Snape in the film adaptation of J. K. Rowlings popular Harry Potter novels. Over the course of the films, Rickman would chart the character’s growth from antagonistic professor to tragic figure in a way that played on and was added by his public perception as a villain to achieve an astounding emotional depth that might not have been achievable by another actor.
But Rickman was not all villain roles. He was able to show off considerable leading man skills in such films as the supernatural romance Truly, Madly, Deeply. He also periodically collaborated with actress Emma Thompson, first in the 1995 Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility in which Thompson both starred and directed. For 1997’s The Winter Guest, it was Rickman’s turn behind the camera – The film was his directorial debut – and Thompson’s in front. The pair would reteam onscreen as husband and wife in 2003’s Love Actually.
Rickman also had a strong career on the stage. He received a Tony award nomination in 1986 for his work in Dangerous Liasons.