Although he made his name playing ruthless, genteel villains like Die Hard's Hans Gruber and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' Sheriff of Nottingham, Alan Rickman has proven himself equally remarkable in romantic, comic, and good-guy dramatic roles. An actor of brooding charisma who intones his lines in a deep, milky baritone, Rickman began his career on-stage, building up a sizable resumé before embarking on a film career.
Of Irish and Welsh parentage, Rickman was born in London's Hammersmith district on February 21, 1946. His father, who was a painter and decorator, died of cancer when the actor was eight, leaving behind Rickman, his mother, and three siblings. After winning a scholarship to West London's Latymer Upper School, Rickman began acting at the encouragement of his teachers. He also developed an interest in art, and he went on to study graphic design at the Royal College of Art. He founded a Soho-based design company, but after deciding that his heart was in acting, he abandoned the company when he was 26 to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He spent three years there, serving as a dresser to such actors as Ralph Richardson and Nigel Hawthorne. After leaving RADA, Rickman began to make his name on the stage, first appearing in repertory and then landing lead roles in London productions. He gained particular acclaim for his portrayal of Valmont in a West End production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, eventually reprising his role for the Broadway production and winning a Tony nomination.
In 1988, Rickman got his first dose of big-screen recognition with Die Hard. After the film's huge success, and praise for his delightfully nasty portrayal of the film's villain, he went on to make a couple of poorly received features, including 1989's The January Man and 1990s Quigley Down Under. Success greeted him again in 1991: playing Kevin Costner's nemesis, the vile and loathsome Sheriff of Nottingham, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Rickman proved to audiences why being bad could be so much fun. The same year, he endeared himself as a markedly more sympathetic character in Truly, Madly, Deeply. As a deceased cellist who reappears to comfort his lover (Juliet Stevenson), Rickman proved himself adept at romantic comedy, and began to accrue a reputation as a thinking woman's sex symbol (something he vocally resented).
The actor spent the remainder of the decade turning in solid performances in a number of diverse films: he could be seen as an actor with a troubled past in An Awfully Big Adventure (1994), a very sympathetic Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Eamon de Valera in Michael Collins (1996), a has-been sci-fi television star in Galaxy Quest (1999), and a grumpy angel in Dogma (1999). In 1997, Rickman branched out into directing, making his debut with The Winter Guest. Starring real-life mother and daughter Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson as an estranged mother and daughter, the film won a number of positive notices, further establishing Rickman as a man of impressive versatility, both in front of and behind the camera.
Though Rickman's voice would be featured on the animated television series King of the Hill in 2003, he wasn't truly absorbed into mainstream pop-culture among the kid circuit until after starring in the movie adaptations of author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Rickman played the sinister Professor Snape in the films, one of the few post-pubescent constants in the franchise.
In 2005, just months before the fourth installment in the Potter series, Rickman showed up in the first big-screen adaptation of another literary series with a rabid fan base, lending his voice to the character of Marvin the neurotic robot in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx
Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#34). 
Ranked #59 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Has been in a relationship with Rima Horton since 1965. The pair share a home in London. Rima Horton has retired from her lecturing position, and lost her seat on the council she worked for in the local elections of May 2006.
Although a highly successful film actor, he has frequently passed up film offers to return to the theater. (A place and activity which he calls "magical" and his "first love").
Nominated for Tony award as Best Actor for Broadway revival of "Private Lives", May 2002.
Was given the role of Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) only after Tim Roth backed out.
He became well-known to the American public with his performance as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988).
Before becoming an actor, he studied graphic design at Chelsea College Of Art And Design and at the Royal College Of Art, forming a successful graphic design company, Graphiti, with several friends.
Named Best Stage Actor for his part in the acclaimed revival of the Noel Coward play Private Lives at The Variety Club Show business Awards 2002.
Father died when he was 8 years-old.
Is the second of four children in his family. He has an older brother, a younger brother and a younger sister.
While filming Die Hard (1988), was found proficient at mimicking American accents; a scene in which Hans Gruber and John McClane finally meet was then added to the script.
Made Vice-Chairman of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 2003.
Was offered the role of Leonardo Leonardo in the 2000 cartoon based on Kevin Smith's film Clerks. (1994). Originally, the character was modeled after Hans Gruber, but the design was changed upon Rickman's request. The studio decided not to go with Rickman, and the role went to Alec Baldwin.
He was nominated for a 2002 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actor of 2001 for his performance in "Private Lives" at the Albery Theatre, London.
He was nominated for a 2001 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Private Lives at the Albery Theatre.
For the shot where Hans Gruber falls from the top of the building in Die Hard (1988), was actually dropped by a stuntman from a 20-foot high model onto an air bag. To get a genuine surprised look, the stunt man dropped him on the count of two instead of three.
In Die Hard (1988), he is seen firing a gun only twice (in the atrium when Gruber realizes Holly is John's wife and the "shoot the glass" scene), due to his uncontrollable habit of flinching when the gun recoiled. In that scene he blinks just before the camera cuts.
Was voted #19 in Empire Magazine's Greatest Living Movie Stars over the age of 50.
Was active in raising funds for the Labour Party.
Was twice nominated for Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actor (Play): in 1987 for "Les Liaisons Dangereuses", and in 2002 for a revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives".
Two of the Harry Potter films (so far) also feature Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick. In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Rickman and Warwick Davis play the same part. Warwick Davis wore the robotic suit for Marvin, while Rickman provides the voice.
His portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988) 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.
Is good friends with Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's former Governor General. Rickman visited Adrienne Clarkson's Ottawa, Ontario home in May 2005.
Says Canada is like a second home.
Failed his California driving test at one point for "driving too cautiously through a green light".
Was twice nominated for an Laurence Olivier Award as Best Actor (Play): in 1987 for "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," and in 2002 for a revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives".
Good friend of 'Sharman MacDonald'.
He is 11 years older than Timothy Spall, 12 years older than Adrian Rawlins and Gary Oldman, 17 years older than David Thewlis, and 21 years older than Geraldine Somerville. Nevertheless, the character that the six of them play in the Harry Potter films are meant to be contemporaries and former classmates.
Was J.K. Rowling's personal favorite to play "Severus Snape".
Auditioned for Chris Barrie's character "Rimmer" in "Red Dwarf" (1988).
Godfather of Tom Burke.
Was Richard Curtis's choice to play Charles in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Curtis was very hesitant in casting Hugh Grant as he had so wanted Rickman.
Read the script of Snow Cake (2006) and suggested Sigourney Weaver for the role of Linda, having worked with her on Galaxy Quest (1999). He even telephoned Weaver, and told her she had to read the script, as there was a role he felt she could play perfectly in it.
Angela Pell stated at the Berlinale Press Conference, that she wrote the role of Snow Cake (2006)'s Alex Hughes with him in mind. The character's name in the script was "Alan", and it was Rickman who suggested the change to Alex.
The script of Galaxy Quest (1999) originally contained a mention of Alexander Dane having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He asked that this be changed because he believed it was inconsistent with the character, and all mentions of the knighting were removed. However, the character is still listed in the credits as "Sir Alexander Dane".
For Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), he turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte-blanche with his interpretation of the character.
Had cello lessons for his part in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), and while he handles the right (bowing) hand, the left hand is provided by a real cellist standing behind him with his arm through Alan Rickman's armpit.
For his death plunge down the side of the skyscraper in Die Hard (1988), he actually dropped 20 feet onto an airbag against a green screen. Director John McTiernan had to jump first to convince Rickman to do it.
Chosen by Empire Magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#83) 2007.
Was best man at the wedding of Dexter Fletcher and Dalia Ibelhauptaite.
Shared a house with Ruby Wax in London in the early 80s.
Featured twice in Times Online's "The 50 Best Movie Villains" chart: had the 41st position for his role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and the 10th as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988).
Not long after Alan Rickman started to play Severus Snape in the first Potter movie (released in 2001), J.K. Rowling told Rickman some character secrets about Snape that would not be otherwise revealed until the last book. Most significantly, for over seven years, Rickman was one of the very few people other than Rowling to know (years ahead of the last book's publication) that Snape had been in love with Lily Evans (later Potter) when they were students at Hogwarts, and both Snape's protection of and antagonism toward Harry came from that. Rowling said that she shared this information with Rickman because "he needed to understand, I think, and does completely understand and did completely understand where this bitterness towards this boy, who's living proof of [Lily's] preference for another man, came from".
Voted #8 on Empire Online's list of 50 Sexiest Movie Men. 52% of readers voted that he should have been higher on the list - Oct 2009. (IMDB)