Alan Rickman. (Charles Sykes / Invision / AP)

Alan Rickman, the British actor admired for his portrayal of the darkly inscrutable Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” films and owner of what Guardian film editor Catherine Shoard described as “one of the most singular voices in acting” has died of cancer in London at age 69.

Rickman believed actors had a responsibility to educate as well as entertain. “Actors are agents of change,” he once said. “A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

His recent work included roles in the Coen brothers’ “Gambit,” Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”—in which he played Ronald Reagan—and “a humorous, imperious King Louis XIV” in “A Little Chaos.” He also appeared in “Eye in the Sky,” a highly reviewed thriller about drone warfare, and repeated his voice-over as Absolem the Caterpillar in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” due for release later this year.

Shoard continues in her obituary of Rickman:

A star whose arch features and languid diction were recognisable across the generations, Rickman found a fresh legion of fans with his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. But the actor had been a big-screen staple since first shooting to global acclaim in 1988, when he starred as Hans Gruber, Bruce Willis’s sardonic, dastardly adversary in Die Hard – a part he was offered two days after arriving in Los Angeles, aged 41. […]

In 2005, Rickman directed the award-winning play My Name is Rachel Corrie, which he and Katharine Viner – now Guardian editor-in-chief – compiled from the emails of the student who was killed by a bulldozer while protesting against the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip.

Rickman remained politically active throughout his life: he was born, he said, “a card-carrying member of the Labour party”, and was highly involved with charities including Saving Faces and the International Performers’ Aid Trust, which seeks to help artists in developing and poverty-stricken countries.

Rickman publicly spoke of his unhappiness about the “Hollywood ending” of 1996 film Michael Collins, a historical biopic of the Irish civil war, in which he portrayed Éamon de Valera, and expressed his belief that art ought to help educate as well as entertain. “Talent is an accident of genes, and a responsibility,” he once said.

He and his wife, Rima Horton, met when they were still teenagers; she became an economics lecturer as well as a Labour party councillor. In 2012, the pair married, having been together since 1965. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of the first to pay tribute on Twitter, along with Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard. […]

Rickman was sanguine about his legions of admirers, who declared their love on countless websites, video tributes and at stage doors. Even scientists were not immune: in 2008, linguistics professors concluded that the most appealing male voice mixes elements of Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon.

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Your support matters…

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media.

You can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise.

Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.