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Alan Rickman, star of "Die Hard" and "Harry Potter" films, dies

Last Updated Jan 14, 2016 2:30 PM EST

British actor Alan Rickman, a stage and screen actor best recognized as Professor Snape in the "Harry Potter" films, has died. He was 69.

His agent confirmed his death to CBS News on Thursday.

Born in 1946 to a working-class London family, he trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His performance as a scheming French aristocrat in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1985 production of Christopher Hampton's "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" was his breakout role.

He came to the attention of movie audiences in the 1988 action film, "Die Hard," playing the villain opposite hero cop Bruce Willis.

He starred as memorably delicious villains in such films as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," and "Rasputin," a 1996 TV movie for which he won a Golden Globe.

Rickman also played the romantic, in the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," "Truly, Madly, Deeply," and "Love Actually."

His other film credits include "Michael Collins," "Galaxy Quest," "The January Man," and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" (as Ronald Reagan).

He was also the voice of Marvin the android in the 2005 film of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," and of Blue Caterpillar in Tim Burton's "Alice" films.

On Broadway, he earned two Tony Award nominations for Best Actor for "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "Private Lives."

He also took turns behind the camera, directing Emma Thompson in "The Winter Guest," and Kate Winslet in "A Little Chaos."

Frequently charming in person, Rickman was, by his own account, uncompromising as an actor. During the filming of the "Harry Potter" films, he maintained Snape's air of haughty disdain even off-camera.

"The animal in me takes over," Rickman told The Associated Press in 2011 when he appeared on Broadway in Theresa Rebeck's play "Seminar." "You're as polite as possible, but it's not always possible."

Rickman is survived by his partner of 50 years, Rima Horton, whom he married in 2012. Funeral details were not immediately available.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.