Onscreen Prof. Snape, British actor Alan Rickman dead

London, Jan 14 (IANS) British film, TV and stage actor Alan Rickman, who carved out a niche for himself with his distinctive screen presence and voice and was best known for playing Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series and ruthless terrorist Hans Gruber in “Die Hard”, died here on Thursday, his family announced. He was 69.

“The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends,” said a statement released by his family, reported BBC.

Born on February 21, 1946 in a working class family, Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman became interested in drama while attending upper school and trained in art and graphic design before securing a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1972 where he honed his talent.

His first major role was as the impetuous Tybalt in a BBC TV adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” (1978) but came to viewers’ attention with his brief appearance in the BBC adaptation of John le Carre’s “Smiley’s People” (1982) with Alec Guinness and then as the odious, smarmy Reverend Obadiah Slope in the channel adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s ecclesiastical series “Barchester Towers” (1982).

What took his career upward was his villainous part as the German terrorist in the high octane-action thriller “Die Hard” (1988) opposite Bruce Willis (a role he reprised in a flashback as “Die Hard with a Vengeance”, 1995), as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in Kevin Costner-starrer “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” (1991) and then as Hogwarts’ apparently malevolent potions master who ceaselessly targets the boy wizard and his friends.

Playing Snape with barely repressed, sarcastic menace, Rickman appeared in all seven films of the series from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001) to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II” (2011).

But he was not always the bad (or the apparent bad) onscreen with roles like the controversial German physician Franz Anton Mesmer in “Mesmer” (1994), Col. Brandon, who romances the younger sister (Kate Winslet) in Ang Lee’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), iconic Irish leader Eamon De Valera in “Michael Collins” (1996) and ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV in his own directed “A Little Chaos” (2015).

His distinctive voice was used for Marvin the Paranoid Android in a 2005 adaptation of Douglas Adams’ cult classic “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and as the Caterpillar in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” (2010).

A recipient of the BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards, he is survived by his spouse Rima Horton with whom he had been living together since 1977 and married in 2012.

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