Alan Rickman (born 21 February 1946) is an English film, television
and stage actor.
Alan Rickman is perhaps best known to film audiences for his roles as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He also featured prominently as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 blockbuster, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. More recently, Alan portrayed Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Steven Spurrier in Bottle Shock.
Alan was born in Hammersmith, London to a working-class family, the son of Margaret Doreen Rose (née Bartlett), a housewife, and Bernard Rickman, a factory worker. Rickman's mother was Welsh and a Methodist and his father was of Irish Catholic background, He has one older brother David, a younger brother Michael and a younger sister Sheila. Alan attended an infants school in Acton that followed the Montessori method of education. When he was eight his father died, leaving his mother to raise four children mostly alone. She married again, but divorced his stepfather after three years. "There was one love in her life," Alan later said. Alan excelled at calligraphy and watercolor painting, and from Derwentwater Junior School he won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London, where he started getting involved in drama. After graduating, Alan attended Chelsea College of Art and Design and made his way as a graphic designer, which he considered a more stable occupation than acting. "Drama school wasn't considered the sensible thing to do at 18," he said. Alan received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) which he attended from 1972–1974. While there, he studied Shakespeare's works and supported himself working as a dresser for Sir Nigel Hawthorne and Sir Ralph Richardson, and left after winning several prizes such as the Emile Littler Prize, the Forbes Robertson Prize, and the Bancroft Gold Medal.
After graduating from the RADA, Alan worked extensively with various British repertory and experimental theatre groups on productions including The Seagull and Snoo Wilson's The Grass Widow at the Royal Court Theatre, and has appeared three times at the Edinburgh International Festival. In 1978, he played with the Court Drama Group, performing in several plays, most notably Romeo And Juliet and A View from the Bridge. While working with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) he starred in, among other things, As You Like It. He would be the male lead in the 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Christopher Hampton, which would be a sellout. When the show went across the Atlantic in 1986, Alan went on with it to Broadway and there earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance.
"You can act truthfully or you can lie. You can reveal things about yourself or you can hide. Therefore, the audience recognises something about themselves or they don't — You hope they don't leave the theatre thinking 'that was nice...now where's the cab?'"
While with the RSC he shared a house with fellow company member Ruby Wax. Alan put her into writing comedy and proceeded to direct several of her successful shows. "If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work", he said.
To television audiences he also became known as Mr. Slope in the BBC's 1980s adaptation of Barchester Towers. He played future Irish Taoiseach and president Éamon de Valera in the film Michael Collins alongside Liam Neeson as the title character. While playing romantic leads in British movies (Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility;Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply), he was generally typecast in Hollywood films as an over-the-top villain (German terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). His role in Die Hard 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. His performance of Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves also made him known as one of the best actors to portray a villain in films.
Alan has also played comedic roles in films such as Galaxy Quest, Dogma, and
as Emma Thompson's foolish husband in Love Actually. He won a Golden Globe and
an Emmy for his performance as Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny in 1996, and
was also nominated for an Emmy for his work as Dr. Alfred Blalock in 2004's
Something the Lord Made. He appeared in the Harry Potter films as the Potions
professor Severus Snape. Alan was cast in 2005 as the voice of Marvin the
Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film. Coincidentally,
Alan and David Learner, who occupied Marvin's costume for the TV adaptation and
stage shows, studied together at RADA. He was very busy in 2006 with Snow Cake
(with Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss) which had its debut at the
Berlinale, and also Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (with Dustin Hoffman),
directed by Tom Tykwer.
Alan has performed on stage in Noel Coward's romantic comedy Private Lives, which transferred to Broadway after its successful run in London at the Albery Theatre and ended in September 2002. Alan had reunited with his Les Liaisons Dangereuses co-star Lindsay Duncan, and director Howard Davies for this Tony Award-winning production.
Alan Rickman's previous stage performance was as Mark Antony, opposite Helen Mirren as Cleopatra, in the Royal National Theatre's production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Olivier Theatre in London, which ran from 20 October to 3 December 1998. Before that, he performed in Yukio Ninagawa's Tango at the End of Winter in London's West End and the Riverside Studio production of Hamlet in 1991, directed by Robert Sturua. He directed The Winter Guest at London's Almeida Theatre in 1995. He also directed the film version in 1996 starring Emma Thompson and her real life mother Phyllida Law.
Alan has also been featured in several musical works — most notably in a song composed by the English songwriter Adam Leonard. Moreover, the actor played a "Master of Ceremonies" part in announcing the various instruments in Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells II on the track The Bell. Alan was one of the many artists who recited Shakespearian sonnets on the 2002-released When Love Speaks CD, and is also featured prominently in a music video by the band Texas entitled In Demand, which premiered on Europe MTV in August 2000. In the video, lead singer Sharleen Spiteri danced the tango with Rickman: the clip was nominated for Best British Video at the Brit Awards.
Alan played Severus Snape, the seemingly sinister potions master of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter saga, in the five films of that series to date. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named him one of their favorite people in pop culture, saying that in the Harry Potter films, "he may not be on screen long - but he owns every minute," and that he is capable of "turning a simple retort into a mini-symphony of contempt."
Alan directed the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie in April 2005 at the Royal Court Theatre, London, and won the Theatre Goers' Choice Awards for best director. The production is based on the writings of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American woman who was killed on 16 March 2003 by an Israeli armored bulldozer. The show played at the West End's Playhouse Theatre in London from March to May 2006. The play also ran at both the Galway Arts Festival and the Edinburgh Festival in 2006.
In 1995 Alan turned down the role of Alec Trevelyan in the 1995 James Bond film Goldeneye. Alan has taken issue with being labeled as a "villain actor", citing the fact that he has not portrayed a stock villain character since the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991. He has further said that he has continued to portray characters of complex and varying emotions, and does not think it is fair to assign characters a label of good or evil, hero or villain. Prior to the book release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Alan had spoken on occasion about Snape quite easily, but with the controversy of the character following the events of the sixth book, Alan refused to speak on the character.
In 2007, Alan appeared in the critically-acclaimed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street directed by Tim Burton, alongside "Harry Potter" co-stars Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall; he played antagonist Judge Turpin. According to Miami Herald, Rickman's performance "makes the judge's villainy something to simultaneously savor and despise", with his "oozing moral rot and arrogance". Alan will also be appearing in the upcoming 2010 Tim Burton film Alice in Wonderland alongside Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway.
Alan was chosen by Empire as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (No 34) in 1995 and ranked No 59 in Empire's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list in October 1997. Alan became Vice-Chairman of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 2003. He was voted No 19 in Empire magazine's Greatest Living Movie Stars over the age of 50 and 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.
Alan Rickman was recently set up by BBC Radio 4's Dead Ringers program. The program satirized Rickman's distinctive inflection when playing 'baddies.'
Research to find 'the perfect voice' has indicated that Rickman's voice is one of the best. The combination of his voice along with Jeremy Irons' voice was deemed the best voice based on intonation, trustworthiness, and soothingness.
This Alan Rickman Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub