On Thursday, January 14, 2016, Rickman passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 69.
Alan Rickman was born on 21 February 1946 in South Hammersmith, London to a working class family, the son of Margaret Doreen Rose (née Bartlett; b. 6 Dec. 1911 in Pontypridd, Glamorganshire, Wales—d. 16 Feb. 1997 in Leicester, Leicestershire), a housewife, and Bernard William Rickman (b. April 1914 in Fulham, Middlesex—d. 9 Sep. 1954), a factory worker, painter and decorator. At the time of his older brother, David's birth, he had been working as a WWII aircraft fitter. His ancestry was English, Irish and Welsh; his father was Catholic and his mother was a Methodist.
He had one elder brother, David Bernard John (b. Sep. 1944), a graphic designer who married Christine J. Morrissey in 1970 and live together in Watford, Hertfordshire; a younger brother, Michael Keith (b. 21 Nov. 1947), a professional tennis coach as well as a Councillor on Harborough District Council of the conservative party and lives in Medbourne, Leicestershire; and a younger sister, Sheila J. Innes (b. 15 Feb. 1950). Like Alan, she won a scholarship to Godolphin and Latymer School, she attended Kingsway Princeton College, London, currently works as an office manager for a company named PRN and lived in Bordon, Hampshire with her husband and daughters until 2009.
When Rickman was eight, his father died of lung cancer on 9 September 1954 at age forty, leaving his mother to raise him and his three siblings mostly alone. She married again in 1960 to Kenneth W.J. Edginton, but divorced his stepfather after three years. "There was one love in her life", Rickman later said of this.
Rickman attended Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton, London, a school that followed the Montessori method of education. He attended Latymer Upper School on a scholarship and then went on to study Graphic Design at Chelsea College Of Art and Design. After college he started a successful graphics design business with friends called Graphiti, before his love of the theatre led him to seek an audition with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). He received a scholarship allowing him to study at RADA, which enabled him to start his professional acting career.
- "You can act truthfully or you can lie. You can reveal things about yourself or you can hide. Therefore, the audience recognises something about themselves or they don't—You hope they don't leave the theatre thinking 'that was nice...now where's the cab?'"
- —Alan Rickman on acting
Whilst he was best known for his film roles, Rickman's first love was the stage. He worked extensively with various British repertory and experimental theatre groups on productions including The Seagull and Snoo Wilson's The Grass Widow at the Royal Court, and appeared three times at the Edinburgh International Festival. While working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he made a particular impression as the male lead in their 1985 production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. When the show went across the Atlantic in 1986, Rickman went with it to Broadway, and there earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance as the elegant and heartless seducer.
Alan Rickman also performed on stage in Noël Coward's romantic comedy Private Lives, which transferred to Broadway after its successful run in London. Rickman was reunited with his Les Liaisons Dangereuses co-star, Lindsay Duncan, and director, Howard Davies for this Tony Award winning production. Previous to this he had appeared in the Royal National Theatre's production of Antony and Cleopatra as Mark Antony, opposite Helen Mirren as Cleopatra, which ran from October 20 to December 3, 1998. Before that, he performed in Yukio Ninagawa's Tango at the End of Winter and the Riverside Studio production of Hamlet in 1991, directed by Robert Sturua. He directed The Winter Guest at London's Almeida Theatre in 1995, which his successfully transferred to film in 1996 which starred his Harry Potter co-star Emma Thompson, and her real life mother Phyllida Law.
- "If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work."
- —Alan Rickman
To television audiences he became known as Mr Slope in the BBC's 1980s adaptation of Barchester Towers, though he was generally typecast in Hollywood films as an over-the-top villain (German terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). His role in Die Hard earned him a spot on the American Film Institute's list of the "100 Best Heroes/Villains" as the 46th best villain in film history. His other film performances however showed the true depth of his acting abilities, playing future Irish Taoiseach and president Éamon de Valera in the film Michael Collins, alongside Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson, and showing his romantic side in British movies (Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility; Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply) Rickman has also demonstrated considerable talent as a comedy actor in films such as Galaxy Quest, Dogma, and Love Actually. He also played a crucial role in the Harry Potter films as the potions professor Severus Snape. Rickman was cast in 2005 as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film. Coincidentally, Rickman and David Learner, who occupied Marvin's costume for the TV adaptation and stage shows, studied together at RADA. He was very busy in 2006 with Snow Cake (with Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss) which had its debut at the Berlin Film Festival, and also Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (with Dustin Hoffman), directed by Tom Tykwer.
Rickman continued to show dismay over journalists repeatedly labelling him as a villain actor, citing the fact that he had not portrayed a stock villain character since the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991, and pointing out that he had continued to portray characters of complex and varying emotions, and didn't think it was fair to assign characters a label of good or evil, hero or villain. The media also dogged him in later years for his thoughts on his role in the Harry Potter series, an irritation to him as he felt the press were too interested in Snape to pay attention to his other work. However, he is very much admired by his Harry Potter fans for the protection he showed for his character in the series, as he continued to cite a fear of ruining the mystery of the character for the fans by talking about him. It is known that prior to the book release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Rickman had spoken on occasion about Snape quite easily, but with the controversy of the character following the events of the sixth book, Rickman refused to speak on the character anymore.
Rickman also featured in several musical works—most notably in a song composed by the English songwriter Adam Leonard. Moreover, the actor played a "Master of Ceremonies" part in announcing the various instruments in Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells II on the track "The Bell". He was also one of the many artists who recited Shakespearian sonnets on the 2002-released When Love Speaks CD, and was also featured prominently in a Texas music-video entitled "In Demand", which premiered on Europe MTV in August 2000. In the video Sharleen Spiteri (the lead singer of Texas) danced the tango with Alan: the clip was nominated for Best British Video at the Brit Awards. Sharleen said about the choice of Alan for the clip; "I thought it had to be someone who would be believable, who would rip your coat off and pull you into the tango, so I thought Alan Rickman!" In 2015, Rickman and Spiteri resumed company for production of Texas' song "Start a Family", in which Rickman not only starred in the video but also provided vocals.
Awards and nominations
Alan Rickman won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his performance in Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny in 1996, and was also nominated for an Emmy Award for his work as Dr Alfred Blalock in 2004's Something the Lord Made. He was also nominated twice for Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actor (Play): in 1987 for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and in 2002 for the revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives.
Rickman directed the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie in April 2005 at the Royal Court Theatre, London, and won the Theatre Goers' Choice Awards for best director. Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner compiled the play from the writings of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American woman who was killed on March 16, 2003 by an Israeli Army bulldozer.Rickman was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (No 34) in 1995, ranked No 59 in Empire's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list in October 1997 and was voted No 19 in Empire magazine's Greatest Living Movie Stars over the age of 50. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named him one of their favourite people in pop culture, saying that in the Harry Potter films, "he may not be on screen long – but he owns every minute," and that he was capable of "turning a simple retort into a mini-symphony of contempt."
Rickman became Vice-Chairman of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 2003.
Illness and death
In August 2015, Rickman suffered a minor stroke, which led to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He concealed the fact that he was terminally ill from all but his closest confidants. On 14 January 2016, Rickman died in a London hospital, surrounded by friends and relatives. Soon after, his fans created a memorial underneath the "Platform 9¾" sign at London King's Cross railway station.
Tributes from Rickman's co-stars and contemporaries appeared on social media following the announcement; since his cancer was not publicly known, some—like Ralph Fiennes, who "cannot believe he is gone", and Jason Isaacs, who was "sidestepped by the awful news"—expressed their surprise. Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling called Rickman "a magnificent actor and a wonderful man". 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". Daniel Radcliffe appreciated his loyalty and support: "I'm pretty sure he came and saw everything I ever did on stage both in London and New York. He didn't have to do that". Evanna Lynch said it was scary to bump into Rickman in character as Snape, but "he was so kind and generous in the moments he wasn't Snaping about". Rupert Grint said, "even though he has gone I will always hear his voice".
Kate Winslet, who gave a tearful tribute at the London Film Critics' Circle Awards, remembered Rickman as warm and generous, noting, "And that voice! Oh, that voice." Dame Helen Mirren said his voice "could suggest honey or a hidden stiletto blade." Emma Thompson remembered "the intransigence which made him the great artist he was—his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me... I learned a lot from him." Colin Firth told The Hollywood Reporter that, as an actor, Rickman had been a mentor. John McTiernan, director of Die Hard, said Rickman was the antithesis of the villainous roles for which he was most famous on screen. Sir Ian McKellen wrote, "behind [Rickman's] mournful face, which was just as beautiful when wracked with mirth, there was a super-active spirit, questing and achieving, a super-hero, unassuming but deadly effective."
Rickman had been with his partner, Rima Horton, for over fifty years, since the two had attended Chelsea School of Art together. A former Labour Party candidate for the British parliament, as of 2006 Horton was an economics lecturer at Kingston University. The couple were married in a private ceremony in New York City in 2012. Horton lived with Rickman from 1977 until his death in January 2016.
In the early 90s, through interviews, he named two of his nieces, Claire and Amelia Margaret M. "Amy" (b. c. 24 Jan. 1982 and between Jul.-Sep. 1983, respectively), the daughters of his sister, Sheila and her husband, John M. Innes. Through them, he had at least one great-niece, Hannah and two great-nephews, Michael and Gabriel, Claire's children, who currently reside in Bergen, Hordaland, Norway.
His other blood-related niece included Sarah Melanie Rickman Hodges (b. c. Dec. 1975 in Watford), the daughter of his brother, David and wife, Christine who lived with her aunt, Rima in Upper Addison Gardens from 2004-07 and is now married to Andrew W. Hodges. Through her, he had three more great-nieces. His other nieces and nephews were related through Rima's older sister and younger brother: Belle; Benta; Jonathan and his brother, name unknown. His extended family included his fourth cousin, Charlotte Faye (b. c. 1982), the daughter of his cousin, Jeffrey R.J. "Jeff" Rickman who currently resides in South West London and wrote a Twitter message for Rickman on the day of his passing. A close paternal second cousin, Anthony Paul "Tony" Farrington revealed, though through his official Pinterest that Charlotte had never met Rickman. His mother passed away on 16 February 1997, aged 85 in Leicester, Leicestershire. Rickman was the Honorary President of the International Performers' Aid Trust, a charity that saves the lives of and supports actors, musicians and other performing artists in some of the most difficult conditions around the world.
- Thérèse Raquin (1980), as Vidal
- The Barchester Chronicles (1982), as Reverend Obadiah Slope
- Summer Season (1985), as Croop
- Die Hard (1988), as Hans Gruber
- The January Man (1989), as Ed the painter
- Quigley Down Under (1990), as Elliot Marston
- Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991) as Jamie
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), as the Sheriff of Nottingham
- Close My Eyes (1991) as Sinclair Bryant
- Closet Land (1991), as The Interrogator
- Bob Roberts (1992), as Lukas Hart III
- Mesmer (1994), as Franz Mesmer
- An Awfully Big Adventure (1995) as P.L. O'Hara
- Sense and Sensibility (1995), as Colonel Brandon
- Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996), as Grigori Rasputin
- Michael Collins (1996), as Éamon de Valera
- The Winter Guest (1997) (director) (uncredited), Man in street
- Judas Kiss (1998), as Detective David Friedman
- Dark Harbor (1998), as David Weinberg
- Dogma (1999), as Metatron
- Galaxy Quest (1999), as Alexander Dane/Dr Lazarus
- Play (2000), as M
- Help! I'm a Fish! (2000), as the voice of Joe
- Blow Dry (2001), as Phil Allen
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), as Severus Snape
- The Search for John Gissing (2001), as John Gissing
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), as Severus Snape
- King of the Hill-"Joust Like a Woman" (2002) as King Philip
- Love Actually (2003), as Harry
- Something the Lord Made (2004), as Dr Alfred Blalock
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), as Severus Snape
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), as Severus Snape
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), as Antoine Richis
- Snow Cake (2006), as Alex Hughes
- Nobel Son (2006), as Eli Michaelson, Nobel laureate
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), as Severus Snape
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), as Judge Turpin
- Bottle Shock (2008), as Steven Spurrier
- The Villa Golitsyn (2008), as Will Ludley
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), as Severus Snape
- Alice In Wonderland (2010), as Absolem (the Blue Caterpillar).
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010), as Severus Snape
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), as Severus Snape
- Gambit (2012), as Lord Lionel Shahbandar
- The Butler (2013), as Ronald Reagan
- A Little Chaos (2014), as King Louis XIV
- Eye in the Sky (2015), Lieutenant General Frank Benson
- Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), Absolem the Caterpillar, final role
- Smiley's People (1982)
- The Barchester Chronicles (1982)
- We Know Where You Live (2001)
Behind the scenes
- His second and third names were derived from his maternal uncle, Sidney F.H. Bartlett (b. 1914), who died at 15 years old in 1929 (from an unknown cause) and his paternal uncle, Patrick David John Rickman (b. 1919 and married to Jennie R. Gentry in 1939), who died at 26 years old on 1 January 1945 as a World War II Rifleman for the King's Royal Rifle Corps.
- It is said that during the production of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, he had cut his Snape wig "because it drove him mad."