While studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Rickman was pushing 30 and supporting himself by working as a dresser for other actors (and we mean literally helping them put their clothes on). He did get to meet stage actors like Sir Nigel Hawthorne, but their interaction at this point was probably limited to "fetch me my leotards, boy."
"Now put them on, very slowly. Yes. Yes."
And this went on for years. Rickman farted around the theater scene for over a decade.
Then finally Rickman was cast as one of the leads in the stage version of the book Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The play was a hit and was soon adapted by Hollywood as Dangerous Liaisons. Boom! Success! Everyone involved in it became internationally famous!
Except Rickman, because they replaced him with John Malkovich.
Everyone knows Alan Rickman is famously terrible at playing creepy, evil characters.
However, Rickman's performance did catch the attention of producer Joel Silver, who two years later asked him to star as the villain in some action movie with some TV actor named Bruce Willis. Something about a bunch of terrorists taking over a skyscraper.