Alan Rickman was born on a council estate in Acton, West London to Margaret (Welsh) and Bernard (Irish) Rickman. When Alan was 8 years old his father died. He attended Latymer Upper School on a scholarship. He studied Graphic Design at Chelsea College Of Art and Design, where he met Rima Horton who would later become his life partner. After three years at Chelsea College, he did graduate studies at the Royal College Of Art. He opened a successful graphics design business, Graphiti, with friends and ran it for several years before his love of theatre led him to seek an audition with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). At the relatively late age of 26, he received a scholarship to RADA, which started a professional acting career that has lasted over 35 years, with no signs of stopping, a career which has spanned stage, screen and television and has lapped over into directing as well.
Rickman first came to the attention of American audiences as Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Broadway in 1987 (he was nominated for a Tony for his performance in the role). Denied the role in the film version of the show, Rickman instead made his first movie appearance opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard(1988) as the villain, Hans Gruber. Rickman's take on the urbane villain set the standard for screen villains for decades to come. Though often cited as being a master of playing villains, Rickman has actually played a wide variety of characters, such as the romantic cello playing ghost Jamie in Anthony Minghella's Truly Madly Deeply (1990) and the noble Colonel Brandon of Sense and Sensibility (1995). He's treated audiences to his comedic abilities with films like Dogma(1999), Galaxy Quest (1999) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), and roles like Dr Blalock in Something the Lord Made(2004) and Alex Hughes in Snowcake(2006) showcase his ability to play ordinary men in extraordinary situations. In 2001, Rickman introduced himself to a whole new, and younger, generation of fans by taking on the role of Severus Snape in the movie versions of J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). He has continued to play the role though the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009).