LONDON British actor Alan Rickman, whose roles ranged from Hollywood villains to Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films, has died after a battle with cancer aged 69.
With his aquiline features and cultured - if often menacing - English accent, he became one of Britain's best-known actors of stage and screen over the last 30 years with a career stretching from the Royal Shakespeare Company to sci-fi spoof "Galaxy Quest".
"The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends," his family said in a statement on Thursday.
A graduate of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rickman got his big break appearing the Broadway version of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" in the mid-1980s before making his first major film appearance as Hans Gruber in "Die Hard" soon afterwards.
That was to be the first of many performances as a villain, including "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and as the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", for which he won a Bafta, the British equivalent of an Oscar.
He also won a Golden Globe and an Emmy during his career and despite his reputation for playing the "baddie", he was also acclaimed for more sensitive roles in films such as "Truly Madly Deeply", and "Love, Actually".
"Everybody loved Alan. He was always happy and fun and creative and very, very funny," veteran British actor Michael Gambon told BBC radio. "He had a great voice, he spoke wonderfully well, he was intelligent, he wrote plays and he directed a play. So he was a real man of the theatre and the stage."
The Guardian newspaper said Rickman was always politically active with the left-wing Labour Party and his wife, Rima Horton, his partner of more than 50 years whom he married in secret last year, had been a Labour councillor in London.
"Really sad to hear about Alan Rickman. Brilliant actor, deeply principled man. My heart goes out to Rima and his family," Ed Miliband, Labour's former leader who led the party to defeat in last year's election, said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)
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