The British actor Alan Rickman has lost a battle with cancer and passed away in London on Thursday, his family has confirmed.

Rickman had been dealing with his illness in secret and wanted to keep his medical problems a private matter. The family statement said, "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."

Rickman had an acting career that spanned five decades with memorable roles in movies such as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Love Actually" and as villain Hans Gruber in action classic "Die Hard" – in which he starred opposite Bruce Willis and was a role he was offered two days after arriving in Los Angeles at the age of 41.

To millions around the world he will always be famed for his portrayal of Professor Severus Snape in the "Harry Potter" franchise. He will also be recalled for his immaculate portrayal of Éamon de Valera in the movie "Michael Collins," alongside Liam Neeson.

Rickman publicly spoke of his unhappiness about the “Hollywood ending” of "Michael Collins." Originally, the 1996 biopic had an alternative conclusion. He told the Guardian “We shot an ending that didn’t make it into the film, and I’m sad about that because I think that would have made it more equivocal. But, of course, there’s pressure from Hollywood to have a happy ending.”

He once said “Talent is an accident of genes, and a responsibility.”

In April 2015, Rickman had married his lifelong partner Rima Horton, who he met when he was 19 and she was 18 and whom he lived with in London for over 50 years.

Rickman was studied at RADA in London and during his career, in addition to his parts in movies, he played roles on Broadway, in the West End and even recently in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in the title role in Ibsen’s "John Gabriel Borkman," which went on to New York.

Rickman had a massive following of fans and among them was a scientist who, in 2008, concluded that the world’s most appealing male voice would mix elements of Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon.

Tributes from around the world have abounded since his passing. "Harry Potter" lead Daniel Radcliffe posted a moving tribute to Rickman. He wrote: "Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with. He is also, one of the most loyal and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry.

"As an actor he was one of the first of the adults on 'Potter' to treat me like a peer rather than a child. 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. Film sets and theater stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man."

There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman's death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 14, 2016
Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in the franchise, released a statement saying, “I am devastated to hear about the passing of Alan Rickman, I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him on numerous occasions – Even though he has gone – I will always hear his voice.”

What desperately sad news about Alan Rickman. A man of such talent, wicked charm & stunning screen & stage presence. He'll be sorely missed

— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) January 14, 2016

Today a friend, a role model and a truly amazing person lost his battle. I have so many good memories. #Always #RipAlanRickman

— Devon Murray (@DevonMMurray) January 14, 2016
Old friend and stage and screen colleague Emma Thompson wrote this moving tribute:

“Alan was my friend and so this is hard to write because I have just kissed him goodbye.

“What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is his humor, intelligence, wisdom and kindness. His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him.

“He was the finest of actors and directors. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with his face next. I consider myself hugely privileged to have worked with him so many times and to have been directed by him.

“He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics. I trusted him absolutely.

“He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”

Recent film roles included an art-loving lord in the Coen brothers’ scripted farce "Gambit" (2012), as Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels’s "The Butler" – and a humorous, imperious King Louis XIV in "A Little Chaos."

Speaking in Dublin at a screening of "A Little Chaos" Rickman spoke about his love of Dublin and Ireland’s acting talent:

Rickman is still to be seen in "Eye in the Sky," a thriller about drone warfare that won rave reviews at the Toronto film festival in 2015, and repeating his voice-over as Absolem the Caterpillar in "Alice Through the Looking Glass," also due for release in 2016.

Amazingly Rickman’s last aired TV interview was just six months ago on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" where he spoke with the Irish American star about "Harry Potter," while inhaling helium.

Known for his bass voice and an his amazing roles as stern and terrifying villains the actor certainly showed his warm and playful side in this clip.