Alan Rickman died aged 69
“My early reaction to Alan was, ‘Wow, he’s really prickly and quite unpleasant’,” Yates once said.
“But there’s a method to his madness. When I finally met him away from the job, he was a lovely guy.”
Rickman was famed throughout his long career for his onscreen masterclasses in villainy, including his Bafta-winning performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, as well as for his depiction of the coldly sarcastic Potions Master in the eight Harry Potter films.
The much-loved actor, who has died at the age of 69 following a secret cancer battle, first shot to stardom in 1988 playing another baddie – the thieving terrorist Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis’s adversary in Die Hard.
A man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed
Comedian Stephen Fry
He then gained a new generation of fans as Snape in the Potter films, which started in 2001. But Rickman could also be a slavishly adored romantic lead, most memorably in the supernatural romantic comedy Truly Madly Deeply in which he starred with Juliet Stevenson.
He was also praised for his role in 2003’s Love Actually, in which he played Emma Thompson’s straying husband. He may not have won an Oscar during his long career but he did not let it bother him. “Parts win prizes, not actors,” he observed laconically.
Snape in Harry Potter
In April last year Alan con- firmed he had married councillor Rima Horton, his partner of 50 years, in 2012. They began dating as teenagers when students at the Chelsea College of Arts.
At their secret wedding in New York, he presented her with a £130 gold wedding band that “she never wears”. The newlyweds then walked across Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch. Stephen Fry led the tributes to Rickman on Twitter.
“What desperately sad news about Alan Rickman,” he wrote.
“A man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Rickman was born in London on February 21, 1946, to Bernard, a factory worker, and Margaret, a housewife. He was the second of four children.
When he was eight Rickman’s father died, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings. He went to a Montessori primary school before winning a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London.
Here he became involved in drama and art and after attending Chelsea College of Arts he trained as a graphic designer at the Royal College of Art between 1968 and 1969. He went on to design the masthead and worked on the layouts of The Notting Hill Herald, one of London’s first free Left-wing newspapers.
He recalled. “It was a rich time politically. And this was all before computers. A lot of indignation, late nights and Letraset.”
But after three successful years he decided that if he was ever going to become an actor it was now. He gave up his role in the graphic design studio, Graphiti, that he had founded with friends and wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for an audition.
Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham
He attended from 1972 to 1974 and supported himself by working as a dresser for actors including Nigel Hawthorne and Sir Ralph Richardson.
He first came to public attention in 1986 while appearing as the wicked seducer Valmont in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and when it transferred to Broadway he received a Tony award nomination.
Co-star Lindsay Duncan said of his sensual portrayal of the manipulative schemer that audiences would leave the theatre wanting to have sex, “and preferably with Alan Rickman”.
In 2013, at the age of 66, he was ranked in seventh place in a sexiest actor list by Total Film magazine, above such stars as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. But despite his ability to bring to life thoroughly demonic characters he was a warm-hearted man cherished by co-stars for his prankish sense of humour.
He once revealed that he and Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter saga, had put a fart machine in Daniel Radcliffe’s sleeping bag while working on the Prisoner Of Azkaban movie.
“I have a very sophisticated sense of humour,” joked the actor.
But his sense of the ridiculous belied the depth of his talent. “I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously,” he once said.
Hans in Die Hard
Rickman revealed that during the filming of the earliest films the books’ author JK Rowling took him aside and revealed the back story of Snape, swearing him to secrecy. According to producer David Heyman, this meant “there were times when a director would tell Alan what do to in a scene and he would say something like, ‘No I can’t do that – I know what is going to happen and you don’t’.”
A tireless supporter of many charities, the actor believed he could make a difference.
“Actors are agents of change,” he once declared. “A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.