Alan Rickman was born in Hammersmith, England, on Feburary 21, 1946. At the age of twenty-six he abandoned a career as a graphic designer, deciding his heart lay in acting. After leaving RADA, Rickman joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. He began to make his name on the stage, playing a wide range of regional, then later, national theatre roles throughout the 1980s. In 1988, Rickman made his film debut as the evil German uber-terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard.
Success came again when he was cast in another villainous role, as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, confirming his talent for playing the sardonic villain. But Rickman has avoided being typecast; displaying a sensitive side as a ghostly lover in Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply. He turned in further diverse performances when cast as the chivalrous Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, and Eamon De Valera in Neil Jordan's biopic Michael Collins. In 1997, he branched out into directing, making his debut with The Winter Guest. Rickman even proved he could send himself up when cast as the Shakespearian thespian in sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest. The Harry Potter franchise occupies Rickman presently, with appearances as Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, and the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.