Alan Rickman Kept His Personal Life Under Wraps

by Jenny Hollander

On Thursday, Alan Rickman's family announced the devastating news that the beloved British icon and Harry Potter star had died at the age of 69, after battling cancer. Rickman had kept much of his personal life under wraps — last year, he even married his partner of five decades, Rima Horton, in secret — and the kind of cancer Rickman had battled is not yet known, nor how long ago he had been diagnosed. Throughout his 40-year career, Rickman had always preferred to keep the focus on the characters he dazzlingly played, from Severus Snape in Harry Potter to Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Update: On Friday, Pancreatic Cancer Action released a statement noting, “We were very sad to hear that one of Britain’s most popular actors, Alan Rickman, passed away after a short battle with pancreatic cancer."

Rickman's family put out a statement Thursday, which read: "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."

The news came as a huge shock to Rickman's fans, who hadn't even known he was ill. Throughout his career, in spite of his global success thanks to blockbusters like Harry Potter and Die Hard, Rickman had largely shunned the spotlight and instead focused on his acting, preferring to keep his personal life private. That focus more than paid off; for his work on screen and in theater, Rickman ultimately won a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy.

Rickman appeared in a diverse breadth of productions, initially working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and moving on to roles in blockbuster movies across the board. For those who didn't think of him as Snape, he was Harry from Love Actually, Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and so much more.

Actors rushed to Twitter to pay their respects to Rickman.