How Did Alan Rickman Die? His Secret Battle with Cancer

how did alan rickman die
Alan Rickman at a Hudson Union Society event in December 2009. Image by Justin Hoch photographing for Hudson Union Society and sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

With a range that the most popular actors in the world would die for, Alan Rickman was an iconic actor and director both in British and American cinema and theater. His dedication to his craft led him to bring about some of the most beloved roles in cinematic history. Despite his fame, Rickman maintained a relatively private life, which is why the news of the death of the beloved Harry Potter actor came as a shock to fans everywhere.

How Did Alan Rickman die? Find out that and more below.

How Did Alan Rickman Die?

Alan Rickman died following a short battle with pancreatic cancer.  

His diagnosis only came about after he suffered a minor stroke in August 2015, only revealing his terminal diagnosis to those he was closest to in life.

alan rickman close up
Alan Rickman after performance of seminar at the John Golden Theater in 2011. Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen on Wikimedia Commons.

How Long Did Alan Rickman Have Cancer For?

Alan Rickman’s battle with pancreatic cancer, known to be a very aggressive and fast form of the disease, was short, dying only five months after his initial diagnosis.

When Did Alan Rickman Die?

Alan Rickman died on Jan. 14, 2016, in London.

How Old Was Alan Rickman When He Died?

Alan Rickman was 69 years old when he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Did Alan Rickman Have Cancer While Filming Harry Potter?

Alan Rickman’s battle with pancreatic cancer was not his only time dealing with the disease that no one wants to have.

In the mid-2000s, he was also diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of prostate cancer, which led to him receiving a prostatectomy in January 2006.

The operation came just weeks before the fifth installment of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was set to start filming.

Rickman did go back and forth on whether to return, but to the relief of fans returned, saying, “The argument that wins is the one that says: ‘See it through. It’s your story.’”

Related: How Did Marilyn Monroe Die?

What Did Daniel Radcliffe Say When Alan Rickman Died?

Following Alan Rickman’s death, it was not surprising that fans were waiting to find out what other stars had to say about it, especially Daniel Radcliffe, who played the famous “Boy Who Lived” that had quite the tumultuous relationship with Rickman’s Severus Snape.

What followed was proof that one must remember to separate fiction from reality, especially when two actors play their parts so well that it’s easy to be convinced that they truly hated each other off-screen.

After his death, Radcliffe showed nothing but praise and appreciation for Rickman’s friendship and loyalty, saying, “I’m pretty sure he came and saw everything I ever did on stage both in Britain and America. He didn’t have to do that.”

He also noted, “Working with [Rickman] at such a formative age was incredibly important, and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career. Film sets and theatre stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man.”

Other Harry Potter cast members also paid tribute, including Emma Watson, aka the brainy Hermione Granger. She noted: “I feel so lucky to have worked and spent time with such a special man and actor. I’ll really miss our conversations.”

The final member of the trio, Rupert Grint, better known as Ron Weasley, has been quoted as saying, “Even though he has gone, I will always hear his voice.”

J.K. Rowling, the author of the seven Harry Potter books, also posted a message after Rickman’s passing, saying he was “a magnificent actor and a wonderful man.”

alan rickman
Alan Rickman posing for pictures at the stage door after a performance of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen on Wikimedia Commons.

Alan Rickman Funeral

Not much is known about the details surrounding Alan Rickman’s funeral, only that close family and friends were present for his cremation; however, in the years since his passing, there have been celebrations in his honor.

Just last year, BFI Southbank hosted a tribute to Alan Rickman with several famous faces present, including Stanley Tucci, Daniel Radcliffe, and Sir Ian McKellen.

The evening celebrated the upcoming publishing of Rickman’s diaries set to be called “Madly, Deeply,” in honor of his 1990 film Truly Madly Deeply, which saw the beloved actor playing the ghost of a dead man trying to return to his lover.

Where is Alan Rickman Buried?

Following his funeral, Alan Rickman was cremated on Feb. 3, 2016, in Kensal Green’s West London Crematorium. His beloved wife, Rima Horton, was given his ashes. It is unknown what she has done with them.

What Were Alan Rickman’s Last Words?

It’s unknown what Alan Rickman’s last words were in private, but in a final post, he wrote, “To the window, to the wall, to the sweat drop down my balls,” as per Reddit.

However, this wasn’t the “last farewell” that fans remembered most when Rickman died. 

He also left a farewell letter to his character Snape and fans of the series. In that, he recalled his first phone call with author J.K. Rowling, when he became the first to know the secret that fans didn’t learn about the Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House until book seven – he was in love with Lily Potter.

After speaking of his three young co-stars, he wrote: “Three children have become adults since a phone call with Jo Rowling, containing one small clue, persuaded me that there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume and that even though only three of the books were out at the time, she held the entire massive but delicate narrative in the surest of hands. It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it.”

Related: How Did Frank Sinatra Die? His Legacy and More

Who Was Alan Rickman?

Alan Rickman was a famed actor and director from the United Kingdom, starring as some of the most beloved characters in stage and film over his four-decade career.  

alan rickman
Alan Rickman signing a copy of My Name is Rachel Corrie. Stage door session after the matinee performance of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, January 15th 2011. Image by Marie-Lan Nguyen on Wikimedia Commons.

When Was Alan Rickman Born?

Alan Rickman’s birthdate is Feb. 21, 1946.  

His birthdate means Alan Rickman’s Zodiac sign is Pisces. 

Where is Alan Rickman From?

Alan Rickman was born in London, England, growing up in the city’s Acton district.

Alan Rickman’s Ethnicity

Alan Rickman was a British citizen with a lineage of English, Irish, and Wealth ancestors.

His mother and paternal grandmother were from whom he got his Welsh and Irish descent, respectively.

Rickman once said of his lineage: “I was talking to (Scottish singer and guitarist) Sharleen Spiteri about being a Celt, how you smell each other out because my mother’s family is Welsh. There’s not a lot of English blood in me.”

How Tall Was Alan Rickman?

Alan Rickman’s height was impressive, standing 6’1″.

How Much Did Alan Rickman Weigh?

Alan Rickman’s weight was approximately 172 pounds.

Where Did Alan Rickman Live?

Alan Rickman was living in the Hammersmith district of London at the time of his death.

Alan Rickman Early Life and Education

Alan Rickman was a professionally trained actor studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) from 1972-1974.

He didn’t always intend to be an actor, though.

Even though he was involved in theater in upper school, he dabbled more in his talent for watercolors and calligraphy, studying at the Chelsea College of Art and Design (1965-1968) and then the Royal College of Art (1968-1970).

It took three years of running a graphic design studio, which he felt to be a more stable career, for him to finally decide acting was his true passion.

How Did Alan Rickman Become Famous?

Alan Rickman dabbled in a few roles in his first few years after leaving RADA.

To gain experience, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1978 and later earned a Tony Award nomination for his role starring in Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1988.

Finally, came his breakthrough when he starred alongside Bruce Willis in the 1998 blockbuster Die Hard. Rickman portrayed antagonist Hans Gruber.

Rickman’s performance has led to Gruber becoming one of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema.

Related: How Did Tina Turner Die?

Alan Rickman’s Career

After bringing the role of Hans Gruber to life, Alan Rickman’s career soared, earning him roles in several more blockbuster films where he continues to add to the list of the best Alan Rickman characters.  

Over the years, some of the greatest of Alan Rickman’s movies have included Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves playing the Sherriff of Nottingham opposite Kevin Costner’s portrayal of the titular character.

While the film received varying reviews from critics, Rickman’s performance was praised, with Entertainment Weekly saying his “gleefully wicked villain became the summer’s most talked-about performance.”

He was not just a typecast villain, as so many of his roles have suggested. He later proved his range, taking on leading roles in films like 1991’s Close My Eyes. 

Rickman also showed his ability to portray a captivating love story when he starred alongside Emma Thompson in the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, as well as his portrayal of Mark Antony in the 1990s stage performance of the Royal National Theatre’s production of Antony and Cleopatra alongside Helen Mirren in London.

Alan Rickman rejuvenated his career amongst younger audiences as he returned to his talent of portraying the villains we all love to hate (especially when he killed Professor Albus Dumbledore, let’s be honest) when he was cast as Professor Snape in Harry Potter, a role he held throughout all eight films (2001-2011).

During that time, he also held other roles.

In fact, there was one role that, while he was still the typecast villain he tried to get away from, he proved his chops as a singer to those who hadn’t already known his voice in the film adaptation of the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Directed by Tim Burton, the film also starred Johnny Depp, as well as Rickman’s fellow Harry Potter co-stars Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew).

These are only a few of Alan Rickman’s movies and beloved Alan Rickman characters he has graced the world with.

Alan Rickman’s Net Worth

Alan Rickman left behind an estimated net worth of $16 million at his death.

Who Was Alan Rickman Married To?

Alan Rickman married his longtime love, Rima Horton, in 2012. The marriage took place in secret.

Even though Rickman and Horton only got to enjoy marital bliss for four years, in reality, they spent 50 years together, having met when Rickman was only 19. They started living together in 1997.

The couple never had children, to which Rickman has said, “You should remember I am not the only one involved.”

alan rickman
Alan Rickman at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Image by David Shankbone on Wikimedia Commons.

Who Inherited Alan Rickman’s Estate?

Most of Alan Rickman’s estate, which came to 4,060,033 pounds, approximately $5 million worth of assets, went to his wife.

While he didn’t have any children of his own, Rickman was obviously a loving uncle, too, considering he also left 25,000 pounds, approximately $30,000, to each of his three nieces.

Alan Rickman’s Parents

Alan Rickman was one of four children born to former World War II aircraft fitter Bernard William Rickman, a house painter, factory worker, and decorator, and housewife Margaret Doreen Rose Bartlett.

Rickman and his siblings – David, Michael, and Sheila – grew up in a very mixed, religious household as his father was a devout Catholic, while his mother was a Methodist.

Alan Rickman’s Awards

With Alan Rickman’s many accomplishments under his belt throughout his 42-year career, it’s not surprising that he acquired quite a few awards for his work.

One of his most accomplished roles in the measurement of awards was for the 1996 miniseries Rasputin, for which he played the title character, Grigori Rasputin.

The role earned him recognition from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Satellite Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards. He also won one of his two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the part.

His role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) also won him a British Academy Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 

Later, his work as Severus Snape earned him a People’s Choice Award and an MTV Award. 

Alan Rickman’s Legacy

His final three projects were dedicated to his memory in the wake of his death. They included Eye in the Sky (2015), Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), and The Limehouse Golem (2016), which was intended to be his new film project before his passing. 

Additionally, fans of the Harry Potter franchise, which brought Rickman a whole new generation of admirers, honored the “Potions professor that everyone loves to hate” by creating a memorial beneath the “Platform 9¾” sign that hangs at London King’s Cross train station. 

It’s safe to say Rickman is still beloved and will be… Always. 

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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