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Alan Rickman, star of Harry Potter and Die Hard, is dead at 69

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Alan Rickman, the British stage and screen actor best known internationally for his roles in Harry Potter and Die Hard, has died in London at the age of 69. As reported by BBC News, his family said in a statement that he died "surrounded by friends and family."

Known for his aquiline features and languid, mesmerizing voice, Rickman began his acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late '70s and early '80s, before moving onto British TV shows and Broadway. In 1988 he starred in Die Hard alongside Bruce Willis as the villain Hans Gruber, following this up with the role of Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Then, with the Harry Potter franchise, Rickman's talents were embraced by a whole new generation of fans. His performance as the cruel and drawling, ever-hypnotic Severus Snape was without doubt one of the biggest draws of the films.

Despite his classical training, though, he was always ready to take on more idiosyncratic roles. He voiced a Renaissance fair monarch in one episode of cult cartoon King of the Hill and Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, and in the 2000 film Galaxy Quest, he parodied himself as a Shakespearean actor who has reluctantly found fame playing an alien in a hit sci-fi show. In all his roles, though, he was instantly recognizable by his voice, which researchers claimed in 2008 was an essential element in creating the most pleasing male voice.

Although he never received an Oscar, Rickman won numerous awards including an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA. He supported various charities, including the facial surgery charity Saving Faces and the International Performers’ Aid Trust. "Actors are agents of change," Rickman is quoted as saying by The Guardian. "A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."