March 2004
Credit: Cambridge Jones/Getty Images

On Thursday morning, the news broke that beloved British actor-director Alan Rickman had died at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.

Rickman was known for playing villains like Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and his performance as Professor Severus Snape, the tragic double-agent of the Harry Potter films, made him an icon for fans of that franchise as well.

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art-trained Brit was famous not only for his deep, distinctive voice, but also what he said with it: In interviews, he was thoughtful, sincere, and articulate about his craft and our world. Here are 11 of the legendary actor’s best quotes.

In 1991, Rickman told EW:

“I’m like a child with a new toy. I’d like to take what I can from Hollywood, and whatever it is one wants to do in England, and put them together. I do feel more myself in America. I can regress there, and they have roller-coaster parks. My idea of a real treat is Magic Mountain without standing in line.”

He expressed his childlike side again in a 2011 interview with Empire:

“Certainly as actors, and maybe as directors, you’ve got to hang on to something childlike. You’ve got to know what play is.”

He also took out a full-page ad in the magazine about the end of Harry Potter, and what the series had meant to him:

“It is an ancient need to be told in stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it, Jo.”

He spoke again about the importance of storytelling in a 2008 interview with IFC:

“It’s not just work, it’s your life. And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy?”

“Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

He said more about the necessity of actors — and films — being grounded in reality in a 2007 interview with

“Film has to be reflecting the world that we live in and that’s all you want to be a part of. Actors inhabit the same planet as everyone else. It’s a weird thing that happens when you’re an actor because people hold you up because you somehow embody in parts groups of people or people’s hopes or something.”

And told The Erie Times in 2008:

“I’m as insecure as the next actor. I think any actor you ask will say that. This is a business not only based on ability; it is based on fashion and age and youth and all sorts of trends and tricks and so-called qualities. I come from certain strong values from my working family that has always been incredibly supportive. But I’m not starry-eyed about anything.”

“You have to roll your sleeves up in the theater and really confront issues in a straightforward and nightly way. That becomes about stamina and discipline. You learn that you don’t have any real freedom without real discipline. It means years and years of hard work, and you never get it right and the horizon keeps moving away.”

Despite being critically respected, Rickman was never nominated for an Academy Award — but he wasn’t too bothered by the lack of Oscar love. In that same 2008 IFC interview, he said:

“Parts win prizes, not actors. You always know a part that’s got ‘prize winner’ written all over it, and it’s almost like anybody could say those lines and somebody will hand them a piece of metal.”

And he had romantic things to say about the power of the English language, and of laughter, for the Los Angeles Times in 2011:

“[The English language is] so rich and cruel and beautiful, like a fireworks display, and yet it can be so subtle and so crude. Marry that to the stage and something mysterious happens. Don’t ask me what. It’s magical.”

“I think there should be laughs in everything. Sometimes, it’s a slammed door, a pie in the face or just a recognition of our frailties.”