Alan Rickman was born on 21 February 1946 into a country that was both celebrating the end of the war and reeling from its effects. He grew up to be a magnetically charming actor, whose roles were often dramatically different to the man himself.
Rickman often played haughty, upper-class characters. However, his background was working class, and his mother brought him and his siblings up on an Acton council estate near Wormwood Scrubs prison. Leaving college he became a designer by trade, because acting "wasn't considered the sensible thing to do" - but eventually could not resist the lure of the stage, and joined RADA in 1972.
Rickman also played many villains - and some great villains at that. Hans Gruber, the master criminal pitted against Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988), brought him his first real international fame - not long after that he was cast as a devilish Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). And although Professor Severus Snape might not be a villain exactly...no spoilers here!... Alan Rickman made the the role iconic with a performance that dripped contempt and savage (apparent) cruelty in the Harry Potter series of films. Yet, as Daniel Radcliffe himself said, his friend was "...one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry. He was so encouraging of me both on set and in the years post-Potter."
Radcliffe added, "I'm pretty sure he came and saw everything I ever did on stage both in London and New York. He didn't have to do that."
Alan Rickman died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, and was mourned by numerous friends and colleagues - because he was the very opposite of the snooty baddies that he played so well. And he was also mourned by countless fans - of character performances ranging far beyond just evil-doers of course - because no matter what character he was playing, we loved him... as this tribute left spontaneously after his death at the Kings Cross 'Platform 9 3/4' illustrates.