Alan Rickman Told No One About His Fatal Cancer While Filming ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

For many moviegoers around the world, Alan Rickman was one of the most iconic actors ever to grace the silver screen. With a unique voice and striking presence, Rickman appeared in a wide variety of films over the course of his career, earning critical acclaim at every turn.

In 2016, fans were shocked by the sudden news of his passing. In the months the followed his death, fans learned even more about the heroic way that Rickman lived out his final days and the warm words that his friends and colleagues had for him. 

What is Alan Rickman best known for?

Alan Rickman attends the world premiere of 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2' at Trafalgar Square on July 7, 2011 in London, England.
Alan Rickman | Mike Marsland/WireImage

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Rickman was born in 1946 and raised in a working-class family. He had a strong affinity for acting and when he was a young man, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Rickman spent several years acting in stage productions, even appearing on Broadway in the mid-’80s.

In 1988, he made his film debut in the hit movie Die Hard, playing the villainous Hans Gruber. Rickman became a fan-favorite after the film’s release, and he followed up his work in Die Hard with roles in films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Truly, Madly, Deeply, and Galaxy Quest.

Without a doubt, one of Rickman’s most beloved characters is Severus Snape, from the Harry Potter films. As Snape, Rickman perfectly embodied a seemingly villainous man who harbored a tender side.

He also received acclaim for his work in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and lent his voice to Alice in Wonderland, as well as the film’s sequel, Alice: Through the Looking Glass. Ultimately, it was Through the Looking Glass that would prove to be his final film. 

Alan Rickman kept his cancer diagnosis a secret

In January 2016, the world reeled at the news of Rickman’s death from pancreatic cancer. While fans struggled to make sense of it all, the days that followed his death provided some insight into his life and last days.

According to, Rickman chose to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret from the world, sharing the news with only his closest friends and family, and going about his work as usual. Fans also discovered that while Through the Looking Glass might have been Rickman’s last role, he had planned on starring in The Limehouse Golem, a project that he ultimately had to back out of, due to the devastating illness.

Bill Nighy later replaced Rickman and had only touching words to say about the actor after his passing: “At the time we didn’t really know how ill he was. Obviously, it was a great loss to everybody.” Ultimately, the film was dedicated to Rickman’s memory. 

What did Alan Rickman’s friends say about him after his death?

Those who worked with Rickman had only glowing things to say about him. “He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man,” J.K. Rowling, the creative force behind Harry Potter, tweeted after Rickman’s death, noting that she was shocked by the news of his death.

Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter in all the films, wrote a touching tribute for Rickman, saying that “he was so encouraging of me both on set and in the years post-Potter. Working with him 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.”

Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger, also expressed her sadness at Rickman’s death: “I feel so lucky to have worked and spent time with such a special man and actor. I’ll really miss our conversations.”

Countless other fans and colleagues opened up about Rickman’s gentle nature and giving personality, allowing fans a unique look at a private, talented man who was certainly gone too soon.