Alan Rickman died of pancreatic cancer on Jan. 14, 2016 at the age of 69. This was especially heartbreaking after the death of David Bowie, which occurred only four days earlier. Rickman is most well known for portraying Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movie series. Aside from that, he was a jack of all trades.
Alan Rickman was born in the Hammersmith, United Kingdom in 1946. He went to college to study graphic design and opened a graphic design studio called Graphiti with his friends once he graduated. However, he had always had a love for theater, so he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which is one of the oldest drama schools in the U.K. Other alumni include Ralph Fiennes (who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter movie series), Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. He received a scholarship at the age of 26, and during his time there he studied Shakespeare and supported himself by working as a theatrical stagehand. After graduating, he became a part of numerous theatrical groups. Although he was best known for his work in films, he considered theater to be his second home.
After one of his plays, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, was transferred to Broadway where he was nominated for a Tony award for his performance. His big breaks in cinema were his role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988) and as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
From then on, Rickman was typecast as a villain, which was not something he was fond of. He said, “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,” (Biography.com) This image did not change, especially when he was cast as antagonist Severus Snape.
Before Rickman was cast in the role, he told J.K. Rowling “I can’t play him unless I know him,” according to Biography.com. Rickman revealed to HitFix in 2011, “She gave me one tiny, little, left-of-field piece of information that helped me think that he was more complicated and that the story was not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought.”
In a recent tweet J.K. Rowling revealed that this piece of information involves the word “always.” Spoilers: Close to the series’ end, it is revealed that Snape has been working as a double agent against Voldemort throughout the saga. He was in love with Lily, Harry Potter’s mother, for most of his life and was thus trying to protect Harry from Voldemort’s wrath. When Dumbledore asks him he is still in love with her, he replies with the word “always.” This piece of information changed Snape from a villain to one of the series’s most complicated characters and gave more depth to Rickman’s portrayal of the character.
Alan Rickman suffered a stroke in August 2015 which led to his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. However, he chose to keep this a secret from the public. Since his death, fans have made memorials in his honor in the Platform 9¾ Station in London King’s Cross railway station. His co-stars have also posted tributes on social media in his honor. On Facebook, Emma Watson wrote, “I feel so lucky to have worked and spent time with such a special man and actor. I’ll really miss our conversations.”
J.K. Rowling called him “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man,” while Daniel Radcliffe posted that “it might surprise some people to learn that contrary to some of the sterner (or downright scary) characters he played, Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny.”
The loss of Alan Rickman impacted many lives. He was a splendid actor with an incredible body of work, and he contributed a great deal to the art of film and theatre. His 42-year-long career is something to applaud, and his passion for his craft showed with each project that he was a part of. As Daniel Racliffe said, “Film sets and theatre stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man.”