The Harry Potter star brought his complex, magical character to life.
Today, Alan Rickman died at age 69, after a battle with cancer.
My heart hurts.
Rickman gave life to countless characters in films, on the stage, and from the director’s chair. But anyone who knows the difference between a hinkypunk and a hippogiff, and recognises that it’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, not Leviosa, knows Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. And after watching his performance in all eight of the Harry Potter films, you probably realised he was Snape.
What makes the films based on J.K. Rowling’s series so special is how well it’s cast. Maggie Smith brings all the wry wit and tough-love Rowling details to Professor McGonagall. Robbie Coltrane is the perfect lovable half-giant, Hagrid. Even Daniel Radcliffe, who was tasked with embodying the role of the titular boy wizard at the age of 11, won the approval of a very picky audience after 10 years as Harry Potter. But while these actors do Rowling’s beloved characters justice, Rickman does more: He makes Snape better. He makes Rowling’s Snape real.
Post-Potter, it’s hard to watch any movie Rickman appeared in without seeing his characters through the lens of Professor Snape.
In his most recent film, A Little Chaos―which he directed and starred in with Kate Winslet―he plays King Louis XIV and delivers his lines with all the dramatic pauses and weight of the potions professor:
It’s the stuff he’s been lovingly mimicked and memed for by fans over and over again:
Even in the films he appeared in before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published, Rickman has the air of Snape about him. As Jane Austen’s sensitive hero Colonel Brandon inSense and Sensibility (1995), it almost feels like we’re watching Rickman playing Snape playing Brandon:
It’s because he was so convincing as Snape that it’s hard to tell what’s him and what’s his character: where the magical man ends and the real man begins. And perhaps that’s because there was always a little bit of the Snape inside of him. Or maybe he was just that good of an actor.
As promised, Rickman bewitched our minds and ensnared our senses with his magic. And as many have already said, we will miss him, always.