Alan Rickman, the tremendously talented British actor behind such iconic roles as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, has died at the age of 69 following a bout with cancer.

Rickman got his start in the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in Romeo & Juliet, A View From the Bridge and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the latter of which would bring Rickman to the United States for a Broadway run that would earn him a Tony nomination. After his Broadway run ended, Rickman moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and after just two days was offered his first role, which would in many ways be his most iconic: Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

Setting the template for the polished, learned, eurotrash action-movie villain, Rickman brought his distinctive voice to the big screen and became an almost overnight success at the age of 41. Rickman would make a career out of playing villains, later as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and as Rasputin in the HBO film of the same name. Rickman was not always relegated to playing the villain and would have memorable roles in Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility and Galaxy Quest, while frequently providing his voice for movies like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (he was able to finish his work on the sequel to that film, Alice Through the Looking Glass, before his death)

One role as memorable as Hans Gruber would probably be enough for most actor’s careers, but Rickman found another later in life when he was cast as Professor Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

While the film’s played on Rickman’s villainous bent, the actor brought a warmth and sympathy to the role that, by the franchise’s final installment, had audiences weeping for him.

We weep again today as we lose a true giant in the industry.

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