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Alan Rickman arrives for the "A Little Chaos" gala during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, September 13, 2014.

MARK BLINCH/Reuters

British actor Alan Rickman, a classically-trained stage star and sensual screen villain in the "Harry Potter" saga and other films, has died. He was 69.

Rickman's family said Thursday that the actor had died after a battle with cancer.

Trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rickman was often cast as the bad guy; with his rich, languid voice he could invest evil with wicked, irresistible relish.

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His breakout role was as scheming French aristocrat the Vicomte de Valmont in an acclaimed 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Film roles included the psychopathic villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard in 1988; a deceased lover who consoles his bereaved partner in 1990's Truly Madly Deeply; the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991; and a wayward husband in 2003 romantic comedy Love Actually.

Millions know him from the Potter films, in which he played the potions and defence against the dark arts teacher Severus Snape, who was either a nemesis or an ally — possibly both — to the titular teenage wizard.

He appeared frequently onstage, earning Tony Award nominations for Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1987 and Noel Coward's Private Lives in 2002.

Rickman was also a filmmaker, directing and co-starring opposite Kate Winslet in 2014 costume drama A Little Chaos.

Frequently charming in person, Rickman was, by his own account, uncompromising as an actor. During the filming of Harry Potter, he maintained Snape's air of haughty disdain even off-camera.

"The animal in me takes over," Rickman said in 2011 when he appeared on Broadway in Theresa Rebeck's play Seminar.

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"You're as polite as possible, but it's not always possible."

Rickman is survived by his partner of 50 years, Rima Horton, whom he married recently.

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