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Beyond Snape: Alan Rickman's career straddled stage and film (+video)

The iconic British actor may be best known for his role in the Harry Potter and Die Hard franchises, but Alan Rickman was first and foremost a classical stage actor.

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    British actors Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman act, during a photocall rehearsal for 'Anthony and Cleopatra' at the Olivier Theatre on London's South Bank, Oct. 16, 1998. Mr. Rickman, whose career ranged from Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company to the 'Harry Potter' films, has died. He was 69.
    John Stillwell/PA/AP
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British actor Alan Rickman, who is known for his gravitas, has died, his family confirmed Thursday. 

Mr. Rickman, a Golden Globe-winner and two-time Tony Award-nominee, is perhaps best known for playing the villain, in such roles as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard," and as Severus Snape in all eight of the "Harry Potter" films.

Rickman was a member in the Royal Shakespeare Company starting in 1978, following his graduation from college in London.

He caught his acting break in the Broadway version of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" in the mid-1980s. He accepted his first major film role in 1988's Die Hard as the iconic villain.

He told The Guardian in 2015 that his switch to film, and that particular role, came because he "was won over by the wit of the script and the progressive storyline."  

“Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent,” he said. “So, 28 years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so.”

After his turn as Hans Gruber came more screen performances: "Truly Madly Deeply," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Galaxy Quest," and "Love Actually."

While he often played difficult characters, his friend Katharine Viner, who co-wrote the award-winning play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" with Rickman, remembers him off-screen as a good friend. Now the editor-in-chief at The Guardian, she writes that he "was devoted to a large number of people and would somehow always manage to visit their obscure art exhibition, or phone them at 2am when he heard they were in deep trouble...He threw dinners; he ordered every dessert on the menu if you couldn’t decide.”

Rickman is survived by his wife Rima Horton, whom he married in 2012 after being partners for 40 years. 

Following the Potter franchise, Rickman appeared in Lee Daniels' "The Butler" and directed 2014's "A Little Chaos." His last performance will be in "Alice Through the Looking Glass," which will premier this spring.

Rickman struggled with the recognition he gained from his role as Snape, after his experience as a classical actor, his friend Ms. Viner writes. But to the Twitter generation, recalling his deft portrayal of the cold, protective professor appears to be how the loss of him is most deeply felt. 

Online, Potter fans are remembering Rickman with a message of memorial and respect found in the Potter series: wands up.

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