Things you never knew about Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman, the beloved actor behind Harry Potter's Severus Snape, Die Hard's Hans Gruber, and Galaxy Quest's Dr. Lazarus, passed away in January 2016 at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a long legacy of excellent work on film and a rabid collection of despondent fans. A true theatrical artist, Rickman's career on film was only secondary to his love of the stage and "being in danger," and he'd have appeared in more movies if the lure of performing in plays wasn't so strong. Here are a few facts about the legendary Alan Rickman that you may not have known…

He almost wasn't Snape

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling actually wrote the character of Severus Snape around Alan Rickman's movie roles, well before she ever imagined that her series of books would ever become a huge success. Rowling was willing to accept the studio's first choice to play Snape, Tim Roth, but history was changed for the better when Roth decided he'd rather appear as a chimp in Tim Burton's terribly average Planet of the Apes instead. It's clear who the real winner was in this situation, and it's not the guy with a predisposition towards bananas.

He knew the ending of Harry Potter before anyone else

In order to play his role completely effectively, without any of that Leia-kissing-Luke back-pedaling type of stuff, J.K. Rowling told Alan Rickman the true story of Severus Snape. This was many years before anyone else knew where the plot was going, and even before Rowling had written it all down. As a result, Rickman occasionally used his secret knowledge of the character counter to directors' orders, letting them know that "he knew something they didn't." Ultimately, Rickman was pretty great at keeping secrets for years on end, and it made Snape one of the more compelling characters in the series.

He almost wasn't Hans Gruber

Rickman wasn't really interested in being in an action film early in his career, having already acted in very reserved, British-sounding things like The Barchester Chronicles and Summer Season. But the role of Die Hard villain Hans Gruber ended up being a career-defining one, which he only took because of the cleverness of the script. It still didn't stop him from precociously handing notes to producer Joel Silver about what he thought Gruber should be wearing, instead of full tactical terrorist gear. Despite Silver's initial protests against Rickman's suggestion that he wear smart suit, the script was changed to accommodate the idea.

He was really dropped at the end of Die Hard

We're all familiar with the terrified look on Hans Gruber's face as he's dropped from Nakatomi Plaza by the inexhaustible John McClane in Die Hard, but what you might not know is that Rickman's terror was at least a little genuine. Rickman was performing his own stunt, and was going to get dropped from a height of around 25 feet on the count of three—but director John McTiernan decided to drop him on the count of two instead. Understandably fearing for his life after the stunt had potentially gone wrong, Rickman's surprise is pretty serious.

He couldn't really play the cello

Rickman is seen playing the cello in 1990's Truly Madly Deeply, where he appears as the ghost of a dead cellist, but it's not really him playing the instrument. While Rickman took cello lessons for the part, mastering an instrument by the time one has to star as a musical ghost boyfriend in a film is a pretty impossible task. So Rickman took care of the bowing arm, while a stunt cellist reached through his armpit and took care of the rest.

He was originally a visual artist

Before Rickman chose to pursue acting professionally, Rickman attended two art colleges and co-founded the Notting Hill Herald, a small London newspaper that advocated left-wing causes. He also founded a design studio called Graphiti, which worked on 1970s album covers, according to Rickman's recollection, amid a haze of pot smoke. Rickman considered art to be a more stable occupation than acting, but once he found some stability, he left the art world behind, leaving countless psychedelic albums tragically coverless.

He married his first girlfriend in secret

Rickman only had one girlfriend in his entire life, despite the thousands of fangirls who would have liked to have it otherwise. He met Rima Horton in 1965, they lived together by 1977, and it was only in 2012 that the two finally got married, in secret, in New York City. The ceremony was so private that no one knew about it until 2015, when Rickman himself made the admission. Rima remained separate from the acting world, pursuing work in politics and economics instead.

He was almost in Red Dwarf

The popular British sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf had a number of notable actors vying for parts, including Alfred Molina and Hugh Laurie. Alan Rickman was interested in appearing in the sitcom as the uptight Rimmer, but initially refused to read for the part, until the producers managed to get him to run some lines in a nearby pub. Ultimately, the show's ensemble cast was made of lesser-known actors, in case the show was a success and they needed convenient access to the actors for future episodes and films. Rickman ended up going to space anyhow, appearing in Galaxy Quest as an equally uptight starship crewman.