Belfast Telegraph

Screen legend Alan Rickman, Harry Potter's Severus Snape and Die Hard's Gruber, dies aged 69 after battle with cancer

By Claire Cromie

Alan Rickman, the much-loved British actor, has died at the age of 69.

His family said he had been suffering from cancer, but like David Bowie who also died from cancer at 69 this week, his illness was not made public.

The admired giant of British film and theatre was best know for his "baddie" roles as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

It was as Bruce Willis's sadistic adversary he shot to global fame and acclaim at the age of 41.

He nearly turned down the role, but relented in the end.

"I read the script, and I said, 'What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie,'" Alan revealed, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Agents and people said, ‘Alan, you don’t understand, this doesn’t happen. You’ve only been in L.A. two days, and you’ve been asked to do this film.'"

He also played Eamon de Valera in Michael Collins alongside Liam Neeson.

But Rickman experienced a new level of fame when he was cast as the dark Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.

He won legions of new, younger fans from the wizarding role, appearing in all eight movies.

Last year he revealed he had secretly married his high school sweetheart Rima Horton after 50 years together.

Asked what the secret of his successful relationship was, though they were not married, Alan replied: "We are married, just recently."

"It was great because no one was there. After the wedding in New York, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch."

Rickman often worked with Emma Thompson, most notably as husband and wife in Love Actually, but also in Judas Kiss, Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter.

Other notable roles from his illustrious career include Robin Hood: prince of Thieves, Sweeney Todd and most recently, A Little Chaos.

His death comes ahead of the release of a new film called Eye In The Sky in which he stars alongside Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul.

The thriller is set to open in UK cinemas on April 8, according to IMDb.

And the star had also completed another film set for release later this year called Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Rickman, who was also a film-maker, said JK Rowling's long-running Harry Potter series prevented him from returning to the director's chair for almost two decades.

He directed and starred as French King Louis XIV alongside Kate Winslet in A Little Chaos, and on the red carpet at the Scottish premiere of the film last February, he said he had no idea Rowling's saga would stretch to six novels and seven films when he took the role of Severus Snape in 2001.

''I wasn't free until now because I started doing Harry Potter, and when I started there were only three books written so I didn't know I was going to be unable (to direct),'' he said.

''Because if you're going to direct a film it's over a year of your life and I didn't have that.

''So once I had finished with that series of films I was free, and then along came this wonderful script."

A Little Chaos was the star's second outing behind the camera, 18 years after he directed Emma Thompson in Scotland-based drama The Winter Guest.

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