Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman (born 21 February 1946) is an English actor. Rickman is best known for his performances as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series. He is also known for his prominent role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 blockbuster film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and more recently Judge Turpin in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Steven Spurrier in Bottle Shock.
Rickman was born in South 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 from Wales and a Methodist, and his father was of Irish Catholic background. He has one elder brother, David (b. 1944), a graphic designer, a younger brother, Michael (b. 1947), a tennis coach, and a younger sister, Sheila (b. 1949). Rickman attended Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton, a school that followed the Montessori method of education.
When he was eight, his father died, leaving his mother to bring up four children mostly alone. She married again, but divorced his stepfather after three years. “There was one love in her life,” Rickman later said. Rickman excelled at calligraphy and watercolour painting, and from Derwentwater Junior School he won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London, where he started getting involved in drama. After leaving Latymer, Rickman attended Chelsea College of Art and Design and then The Royal College of Art. This education allowed him to work as a graphic designer for the radical newspaper the Notting Hill Herald, which he considered a more stable occupation than acting. “Drama school wasn’t considered the sensible thing to do at 18,” he said.
After graduation, Alan and several friends opened a graphic design studio called Graphiti, but after three years of successful business, Alan decided that if he were to ever explore acting professionally, it was now or never. This led him to write a letter to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) requesting an audition and was awarded a place in RADA which he attended from 1972–74. While there, he studied Shakespeare’s works and supported himself by 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.