Alan Rickman, the actor best known for playing Professor Snape in the "Harry Potter" films, died of cancer on Jan. 14 at the age of 69. He was widely beloved by other actors and movie fans, and, like singer David Bowie who died earlier this week, Rickman’s cancer was not known by the public before his death, resulting in much surprise from his fans — including J.K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" books.
“There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman's death,” Rowling said on Twitter. “He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man.”
The son of a factory worker, Rickman was born in London in 1946 and attended Montessori school growing up. Although he was involved in acting as a teenager, he pursued graphic design at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. After several years of working for a graphic design company, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was accepted, beginning his professional acting career.
In order to more accurately portray one of his most popular roles, Rickman was one of the few people in the world to know where Professor Snape’s true loyalties lay before the final "Harry Potter" book was released, according to The Independent. This was taken very seriously by Rickman.
“She gave me one little piece of information,” said Rickman in an interview, “which I always said I would never share with anybody and never have, and never will.”
Outside of the "Harry Potter" franchise, Rickman was well-known for roles in "Die Hard," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "Love Actually," among many others. Many of his roles were dark but emotionally complex, such as the Russian monk Rasputin in a 1996 biographical TV movie, Judge Turpin in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Steven Soundheim's musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and Vicomte de Valmont in the play "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," which was Rickman’s first big break.
Rickman is survived by his wife, Rima Horton, his partner for 47 years before their marriage in 2012.