Speaking with ET, Rickman opened up about his big-screen debut and what he hoped to accomplish with his performance.
"I like my work to have an effect," Rickman shared. "Believe it or not, I'm not in it to show off. I'm glad whatever I do in Die Hard has an effect in that way -- which is to give people a good time, to go to the movies and have a night off from life, really."
With his very first big-screen performance the actor, then 42, became one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, and set the bar for complex, nuanced bad guys for years to come. Rickman achieved this feat by eschewing preconceptions of how an '80s action movie villain should behave and dress.
"I did not want him to be a stereotype, so as much as possible I tried to pull the rug out from people's expectations," Rickman said. "For example, when I was asked what he should look like [I said that] he's somebody who doesn't get his hands dirty. He tells everyone else what to do. So, I thought, 'Why not dress like that? Let's dress him in a suit [and] let's make it a good suit."
Rickman also addressed the film's famous ending, in which (*27-year-old spoiler alert!*) his character is shot and then falls out a window, plummeting a dozen stories to his death.
The groundbreaking visual effect was accomplished by actually dropping Rickman off of a 40-foot-high platform onto a green-screen stunt airbag.
"That sounded like fun and so I decided to do it," Rickman said. "I thought they were a bit surprised that I said I would and I was surrounded by people saying, 'You're mad, you're mad!' But no, it was fun."
"And it was the last shot, so if I'd been broken my neck, they'd still have a movie," Rickman added.
Before Die Hard, Rickman had mostly worked as a stage actor with a number of British repertory theater groups, including the Court Drama Group and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
According to Rickman at the time, the skills involved with dramatic theater acting and film acting work in concert together, and that "each of them feeds the other."
"If you spend a long time doing one it's great to move on to a different rhythm," Rickman explained. "Actors are fortunate in that they can take their craft and put it into different environments."
In celebration of his many beloved film roles, check out the video below for a look at some of his most memorable performances.