Alan Rickman, 69

Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images

During his 40-year career, Alan Rickman’s distinctive voice and nuanced performances touched audiences around the world.

He was very, very good at playing men who were very, very bad. Alan Rickman, who died in January from pancreatic cancer, was widely known for roles like Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” (1988), the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) and Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” series.

Over the course of his long career, however, he took on almost every kind of role imaginable, inhabiting each one with intelligence, grace and that plush baritone. His credits ranged from the romantic (“Truly, Madly, Deeply,” “Love Actually”) to the far-out (“GalaxyQuest”), with forays into stage acting, directing and writing. His final performance, recorded just weeks before his death, was as the narrator of a playful video appeal from Save the Children and the Refugee Council. In it, a tortoise munches a strawberry while Rickman asks viewers to share the clip to raise money for the charities.

"Talent is an accident of genes -- and a responsibility."

- Alan Rickman
Getty Images

“Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny” earned Rickman an Emmy, a Golden Globe and other awards.

Ron Galella/WireImage

Helen Mirren and Rickman at the 1997 Golden Globe awards.

Murray Close/Getty Images

Rickman starred with Daryl Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, Jed Rees, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver in the 1999 film “Galaxy Quest.”

Rickman was born in London on Feb. 21, 1946. His father died of lung cancer when he was eight, leaving his mother to support the family. “She was a tigress,” he said during press junkets for “A Little Chaos” (2014). “She could do anything… she always reinvented herself.”

After a brief dalliance in graphic design -- he and some friends had a studio called Graphiti -- Rickman enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at age 26. He found work at the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Vicomte de Valmont, in a 1985 production of Christopher Hampton’s “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” He joined the show on Broadway in 1987, receiving a Tony Award nomination for his performance. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a role in the Bruce Willis action-thriller “Die Hard,” which he had doubts about taking. The role became his breakout performance.

David M. Benett/Getty Images for Lumos

Rickman and author J.K. Rowling at a fundraising event in London.

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Qatar Goodwood Festival

Rima Horton met Rickman when they were teenagers. They moved in together in 1977, but weren’t married until 2012.

Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Rickman as Professor Snape in 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.”

"What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humour, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word."

- Emma Thompson

For younger moviegoers, Rickman will always be the Hogwarts Potions master and Head of Slytherin House, Professor Severus Snape. For much of the series, Snape is Harry Potter’s nemesis, seemingly dead set against his progress. But, as in all his performances, Rickman created a complex character who defies easy categorization. After his death, “Potter” co-star Daniel Radcliffe published an emotional remembrance on his Google+ page. “People create perceptions of actors based on the parts they played,” Radcliffe wrote. “So it might surprise some people to learn that contrary to some of the sterner (or downright scary) characters he played, Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny.”

2016 in numbers