Michael Collins and Die Hard star Alan Rickman dies aged 69
Alan Rickman, best known for his roles in Michael Collins, the Harry Potter films and Die Hard, has died aged 69.
The much-loved British actor first shot to stardom in 1988 when he played Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis's adversary, in Die Hard.
He also appeared as Eamon de Valera in Neil Jordan's Michael Collins.
He gained legions of fans for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.
A family statement said: "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."
Rickman's death comes just months ahead of the release of a new film called Eye In The Sky in which he stars alongside Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul.
The thriller is set to open in UK cinemas on April 8, according to IMDb.
And the star had also completed another film set for release later this year called Alice Through The Looking Glass.
Just last year he revealed he had married his high school sweetheart after 50 years together.
Rickman had been in a relationship with Rima Horton since they met when he was 19 and she was 18.
The pair had been living together in London for 50 years, and Rickman revealed to German newspaper Bild last April that they recently tied the knot in secret.
Asked what the secret of his successful relationship was, though they were not married, he replied: ''We are married, just recently."
He added: "It was great because no one was there. After the wedding in New York, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and ate lunch."
Rickman's CV showcases a glittering career spanning almost four decades and featuring a list of hit films.
He may be best known to older fans as sadistic terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard from 1988, or the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves from 1991.
But younger fans probably know him best for his turn as the morally ambiguous Snape in the hugely successful Harry Potter franchise.
Rickman, who was also a film-maker, said JK Rowling's long-running Harry Potter series prevented him from returning to the director's chair for almost two decades.
He directed and starred as French King Louis XIV alongside Kate Winslet in A Little Chaos, and on the red carpet at the Scottish premiere of the film last February, he said he had no idea Rowling's saga would stretch to six novels and seven films when he took the role of Severus Snape in 2001.
''I wasn't free until now because I started doing Harry Potter, and when I started there were only three books written so I didn't know I was going to be unable (to direct),'' he said.
''Because if you're going to direct a film it's over a year of your life and I didn't have that.
''So once I had finished with that series of films I was free, and then along came this wonderful script."
A Little Chaos was the star's second outing behind the camera, 18 years after he directed Emma Thompson in Scotland-based drama The Winter Guest.
Rickman was also viewed by many as a movie heart-throb and, striking a blow for the more mature actor, he was ranked in seventh place in a sexiest actor list by Total Film magazine in 2013 at the age of 66, beating stars such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
He starred in a host of films throughout the 1990s, including Truly Madly Deeply, Sense And Sensibility, Michael Collins, and Judas Kiss.
As well as his starring role in the Harry Potter films in the 2000s, he is known for his part in Christmas hit Love Actually.
Rickman's death from cancer aged 69 comes just days after David Bowie died from cancer at the same age.