Born in 1946, Rickman went to college to study graphic design, but decided after several years in that profession to pursue acting. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and after graduation found work in various theater companies throughout the UK.
His biggest stage role came in 1985 when he landed the male lead in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” When the production moved to Broadway in 1987, Rickman was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance.
However, when the play was adapted into the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons,” Rickman was not asked to reprise his role, losing out to John Malkovich.
Rickman’s big break in front of American audiences did come in 1988, however, when he played the villainous German thief Hans Gruber opposite Bruce Willis‘ John McClane in the action classic “Die Hard.”