Alan Rickman, the British actor who played the brooding Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films years after his film debut as the "Die Hard" villain Hans Gruber, has died after a short battle with cancer, a source familiar with his career said Thursday. He was 69. A smooth-voiced London native, Rickman worked on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in U.K. television projects before earning his first film role: The German terrorist Gruber, opposite Bruce Willis' John McClane, in 1988's "Die Hard." It ended up being one of Hollywood's more memorable villainous roles, but he told The Guardian in 2015 that he almost didn't take it. "What the hell is this? I'm not doing an action movie," he told the newspaper about his reaction after reading the script. But, he said, the progressive storyline eventually won him over. "Every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent," he said. "So, 28 years ago, that's quite revolutionary, and quietly so," according to CNN.