British actor Alan Rickman almost turned down the role in which he made his first major film appearance.
Rickman, who has died after a battle with cancer, aged 69, was offered the role of Hans Gruber in Die Hard just two days after arriving in Los Angeles in 1987.
“I didn’t know anything about LA. I didn’t know anything about the film business… I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap,” he said.
He was given the script and thought: “What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.”
However, he said he was later won over by the witty script and he begged producer Joel Silver to allow him to wear a suit in the role, to make him a distinguished terrorist. He credited his theatre background with winning over Silver.
His later roles ranged from Hollywood villains to Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films, and as former president of Ireland Éamon de Valera in the 1996 movie Michael Collins.
Rickman acknowledged he was unhappy at the final cut of Michael Collins. He said there had been an alternative conclusion.
“We shot an ending that didn’t make it into the film, and I’m sad about that, because I think that would have made it more equivocal, but, of course, there’s pressure from Hollywood to have a happy ending.”
With his aquiline features and cultured — if often menacing — English accent, he became one of Britain’s best-known actors of stage and screen over the last 30 years, with a career stretching from the Royal Shakespeare Company to sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest.
A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rickman got his big break appearing in the Broadway version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the mid-1980s.
His role as Hans Gruber was to be the first of many performances as a villain, including in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he won a Bafta, the British equivalent of an Oscar.
He also won a Golden Globe and an Emmy during his career and, despite his reputation for playing the “baddie”, he was also acclaimed for more sensitive roles in films such as Truly Madly Deeply, and Love, Actually.
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