Date of Birth: February 21st 1946
Although he made his name playing ruthless, genteel villains like Die Hard's Hans Gruber and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' Sheriff of Nottingham, Alan Rickman has proven himself equally remarkable in romantic, comic, and good-guy dramatic roles. An actor of brooding charisma who intones his lines in a deep, milky baritone, Rickman began his career on-stage, building up a sizable resumé before embarking on a film career.
He founded a Soho-based design company, but after deciding that his heart was in acting, he abandoned the company when he was 26 to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He spent three years there, serving as a dresser to such actors as Ralph Richardson and Nigel Hawthorne. After leaving RADA, Rickman began to make his name on the stage, first appearing in repertory and then landing lead roles in London productions. He gained particular acclaim for his portrayal of Valmont in a West End production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, eventually reprising his role for the Broadway production and winning a Tony nomination.
In 1988, Rickman got his first dose of big-screen recognition with Die Hard. After the film's huge success, and praise for his delightfully nasty portrayal of the film's villain, he went on to make a couple of poorly received features, including 1989's The January Man and 1990s Quigley Down Under. Success greeted him again in 1991: playing Kevin Costner's nemesis, the vile and loathsome Sheriff of Nottingham, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Rickman proved to audiences why being bad could be so much fun. The same year, he endeared himself as a markedly more sympathetic character in Truly, Madly, Deeply. As a deceased cellist who reappears to comfort his lover (Juliet Stevenson), Rickman proved himself adept at romantic comedy, and began to accrue a reputation as a thinking woman's sex symbol (something he vocally resented).
The actor spent the remainder of the decade turning in solid performances in a number of diverse films: he could be seen as an actor with a troubled past in An Awfully Big Adventure (1994), a very sympathetic Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Eamon de Valera in Michael Collins (1996), a has-been sci-fi television star in Galaxy Quest (1999), and a grumpy angel in Dogma (1999). In 1997, Rickman branched out into directing, making his debut with The Winter Guest. Starring real-life mother and daughter Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson as an estranged mother and daughter, the film won a number of positive notices, further establishing Rickman as a man of impressive versatility, both in front of and behind the camera.