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Alan Rickman admits to almost turning down iconic Die Hard role

Alan Rickman

Story by Jack Foley

ACTOR-director Alan Rickman has confessed to almost turning down the iconic role that made his career.

To many film fans, the British thespian will always be best remembered for playing super-smart terrorist Hans Gruber opposite Bruce Willis in the original Die Hard.

But speaking at a BAFTA celebration of his work ahead of the release of his second directorial effort, A Little Chaos, Rickman recalled his initial disdain at being offered the role of Gruber.

Having hitherto been a theatre actor, Rickman said: “I didn’t know anything about LA. I didn’t know anything about the film business. I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap. [And] after reading the script, I thought: “What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie!”

However, upon closer inspection, Rickman – who was 41 at the time – enjoyed the wit contained within the script as well as its “progressive nature”.

“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.”

Having agreed to take on the role, however, Rickman then risked antagonising the film’s producer, Joel Silver, and its director, John McTiernan, by making some of his own suggestions concerning the character.

He decided it would be more interesting for Gruber to wear a suit rather than full terrorist gear, while he even came up with the idea of pretending to be a hostage in one of Die Hard‘s most tense encounters.

He made the suggestions in a note on the producer Joel Silver’s table, adding: “I got Joel saying, ‘Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told’. But when I came back, I was handed a new script. It showed that it pays to have a little bit of theatre training.”

Having pulled off the role with such aplomb, however, Rickman’s career went into overdrive and the actor secured a number of high-profile roles, including three more great villains, most notably in the Harry Potter franchise as well as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the under-rated [in our opinion] Quigley Down Under.

He has since broken away from the bad guy image and is now directing his second feature, A Little Chaos, which tells the story of a female landscape gardener (played by Kate Winslet) working for Louis XIV in the gardens of Versailles.

The film is based on a debut script by Alison Deegan, which Rickman said he loved for the way that it “tore the pages up of history”.

“The central character is a woman landscape gardener – a woman who couldn’t have possibly existed,” he said. “And it’s a male-dominated world, where women are merely decorative objects – weirdly, that has modern parallels still. So, also I like that about it.”

Next story: Ryan Gosling in talks for Blade Runner sequel