Alan Rickman was about to quit the Harry Potter series, then JK Rowling told him a secret about Snape
After appearing as the sinister Professor Snape in two Harry Potter films, actor Alan Rickman didn’t feel compelled to return to play a character that he believed was nothing more than ‘an unchanging costume’. But then JK Rowling told him a secret about Snape, one that would only be revealed to fans many years later. She told him the meaning behind the word ‘always’.
As part of a special feature commemorating the conclusion of the Harry Potter franchise in 2011, Rickman narrated the story to Empire magazine. “I have just returned from the dubbing studio where I spoke into a microphone as Severus Snape for absolutely the last time. On the screen were some flashback shots of Daniel, Emma and Rupert from ten years ago. They were 12. I have also recently returned from New York, and while I was there, I saw Daniel singing and dancing (brilliantly) on Broadway. A lifetime seems to have passed in minutes.”
He continued, “Three children have become adults since a phone call with Jo Rowling, containing one small clue, persuaded me that there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume, and that even though only three of the books were out at that time, she held the entire massive but delicate narrative in the surest of hands. It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it, Jo.”
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At the end of the Harry Potter saga, it is revealed that the antagonistic Professor Snape was, in fact, fighting to protect Harry from the evil Lord Voldemort, all because he was in love with Harry’s mother, Lily. In the books (and films), when Professor Dumbledore learns of Snape’s affection for Lily Potter, he asks, “After all this time?” “Always,” said Snape.
Rickman in 2011 had also told HitFix that Rowling had given him ‘one tiny, left of field piece of information’ about Snape. He said, “It helped me think that he was more complicated and that the story was not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought. If you remember when I did the first film she’d only written three or four books, so nobody knew where it was really going except her. And it was important for her that I know something, but she only gave me a tiny piece of information which helped me think it was a more ambiguous route.”
When Rickman died in 2016, a fan asked Rowling what it was that she told him about Snape. She replied, “I told Alan what lies behind the word ‘always.’”
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