Alan Rickman, one of Britain’s most highly regarded and lionised actors, has died from cancer aged 69. The news has been confirmed by his family. Known for his inimitable languid drawl and arch features, Rickman had become a stalwart member of English acting elite. For younger generations he will be best remembered as the villainous Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. For others he will be immortalised as the honourable and modest Col Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, the philanderous Harry in Love Actually and the flamboyant Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. He began his career on stage- a place where some of his finest career moments also unfurled; performances included Antony opposite Helen Mirren’s Cleopatra at the Olivier Theatre in London and the title role in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2010. In 1985 his role as the sexual connoisseur Vicomte De Valmont in the stage version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses was so rousing his co-star Lindsay Duncan memorably said that audiences emerged from the theatre longing to have sex — mostly with Alan Rickman. However, it was only at the ripe age of 41 that Rickman had his big Hollywood break when he starred as the ludicrous Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis’s dastardly arch enemy in Die Hard. Rickman wed his long-term partner Rima Horton in a secret ceremony last April, despite having met as teenagers. Not only was he a long-standing member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and winner of a number of awards including a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award, but his failure to ever secure an Oscar became the butt of many an interview. Ever elegant, he seemed largely unfussed about his accolades, or lack thereof. As he once put it: "I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously."