Alan Rickman has died at the age of 69 after waging a secret battle with cancer, his family said today.
The British actor, known for his roles in films such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood, kept his fight with illness private before his death.
He revealed last year that he had secretly married his long-term partner Rima Horton, whom he had been in a relationship with since 1977, in a New York ceremony in 2012.
Tragic: Alan Rickman has died aged 69; one of the last times he was seen in public was in November, posing with writer Lin-Manuel Miranda backstage at the musical Hamilton in New York
Fame: Rickman was known to many as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films
His family said in a statement today: ‘The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends.’
Rickman, who was born into a working-class family in London, began his acting career on the stage before graduating to Hollywood films.
He became one of the best-known villains in showbiz – appearing as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films.
The actor’s other well-known films include Truly, Madly, Deeply, Sense and Sensibility and Love Actually, in which he played the wife of his frequent collaborator Emma Thompson.
Couple: Rickman pictured with his wife Rima, whom he secretly married in 2012 after 35 years together
Public figures were quick to pay tribute to Mr Rickman after the news of his unexpected death was announced today.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: ‘Very sad to hear that Alan Rickman has passed away. One of the greatest actors of his generation. My thoughts are with his family and friends.’
Author Tony Parsons added: ‘Alan Rickman added a touch of class to everything he touched.’
And Stephen Fry said: ‘What desperately sad news about Alan Rickman. A man of such talent, wicked charm and stunning screen and stage presence. He’ll be sorely missed.’
Boy George was one of many to highlight Rickman’s role as Snape, tweeting: ‘Goodbye Alan Rickman. You were genius in Harry Potter.’
Several fans mentioned that Rickman’s death came just a few days after that of David Bowie, who also died aged 69 after secretly fighting cancer.
Villainous: Rickman played a series of screen baddies starting with Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard
Co-stars: Rickman in Truly, Madly Deeply with Juliette Stevenson and Michael Maloney
Eddie Izzard said: ‘I do not want my heroes to die! Alan Rickman is dead and he was another hero. Alan – thank you for being with us. We are sorry you had to go.’
Rickman’s death comes just months ahead of the release of a new film called Eye In The Sky in which he stars alongside Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul, due to open in Britain on April 8.
Just last year, the star revealed he had married long-term partner Rima Horton, half a century after they first meet as teenagers.
Talking about the ceremony, Rickman said: ‘It was great because no one was there. After the wedding in New York, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch.’
Rickman was a director as well as an actor – but he was unable to go behind the camera for almost two decades because of his duties on the Harry Potter films.
Speaking after his film A Little Chaos, in which he played Louis XIV, he revealed that he had not expected to be tied up with the magical children’s film for so long.
‘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.’
The best-loved villain in Hollywood: From the Sheriff of Nottingham to Professor Snape, Alan Rickman’s dazzling career on stage and screen
Alan Rickman was one of the best-loved and most warmly admired British actors of the past 30 years.
The actor and director became a household name on the big screen after appearing to huge critical acclaim as Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis’s sardonic adversary, in Die Hard.
Throughout his 30-year career, he transcended both romantic and villainous characters, including in Truly Madly Deeply and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which he played the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Throughout his 30-year career, he transcended both romantic and villainous characters, including in Truly Madly Deeply and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which he played the Sheriff of Nottingham (pictured)
More recently, he earned himself a new legion of fans when he played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film franchise.
Yet it was Rickman’s work on stage that established him as such a compelling talent, and to which he returned throughout his career.
After graduating from RADA, he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company before a breakthrough in 1986 as Valmont, the mordant seducer in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
In 2002, he starred in Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which transferred to Broadway after a successful run in London.
During his career, he won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe award, an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Born in in Acton, London, in 1946 to a working class family, Rickman attended the Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, before working as a graphic designer for the radical newspaper the Notting Hill Herald.
With two friends, he opened a graphic design studio but, three years later, he decided to persue acting full time. He was awarded a place at the presitigous RADA school in London, leaving in 1974.
In 1982, British television audiences came to know Alan Rickman as the Reverend Obadiah Slope in the BBC’s adaptation of Barchester Towers, known as the Barchester Chronicles.
Much-loved: Alan Rickman appeared in Love Actually as a husband who considers an affair with a colleague
His career has been filled with a wide variety of roles. In 1992, he was the ‘master of ceremonies’ on Mike Oldfield’s album Tubulur Bells II albim,
He has played romantic leads like Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deepy and numerous villians in Hollywood blockbusters, such as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
He most recently played potions master Severus Snape in Harry Potter.
In April 2012, Rickman married Rima Horton, his partner of 50 years, whom he met when he 19.
The couple, who had been together since 1977, tied the knot in a secret ceremony in New York.
In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper, he was asked what the secret to a successful relationship without getting married is and he surprisingly 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.’
Economist Rima was a Labour party councillor for the Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council from 1986 to 2006.
In his spare time, Rickman supported many charities and was an active patron of the charity Saving Faces. He was also an honorary president of the International Performers’ Aid Trust, a charity that alleviates poverty in some of the world’s toughest conditions.
When talking about politics, Rickman has said he ‘was born a card-carrying member of the Labour Party’.