Today, Harry Potter fans across the globe will mourn the death of Alan Rickman, the actor who portrayed the role of Severus Snape in all eight feature adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series. While Rickman will be remembered for other performances — including the villainous Hans Gruber of Die Hard and Metatron of Dogma, among others— Rickman holds a special place in the hearts of many Potter fans for his outstanding portrayal of one of the films’ most interesting and vital characters.
I wouldn’t be the first to nitpick the alterations and omissions of the Harry Potter films, I’m sure, but I also wouldn’t be the first to say that when it came to casting, the feature adaptations regularly nailed it with the actors selected to play the starring roles. Alan Rickman was no exception there. In fact, there are a number of reasons why Rickman was the perfect Severus Snape. Here they are (Harry Potter spoilers ahead!)
He was funny.Though Severus Snape served as something of a nemesis to Harry Potter, thanks in large part to the grudge he held against Harry’s father, that didn’t mean there wasn’t any room for humor. We might even argue that the screen version of Snape gave us a bit more reason to laugh than his literary counterpart. And that's a credit, in large part, to Alan Rickman's ability to play up Snape's unlikable teacher-vibe, without being too goofy with it. It worked.
Sometimes brilliantly, dryly funny.If we were to split the humor Alan Rickman brought to his Harry Potter character into two sections, slapping Ron and Harry over the head would be on one side, and Snape being the butt of the joke would be on the other. In playing a character who took himself very seriously, Alan Rickman knew how to squeeze just the right drop of humor out of Snape when he was at his most annoyed, like when a portrait’s telling him to put the light out, or when Delores Umbridge is inquiring about his unrequited desire to be the DADA Professor. Because, ob-viously.
He owned the scary-teacher role.Snape was a lot of things, including a professor at Hogwarts. And Alan Rickman slid comfortably into that aspect of his character, whether he was pacing a classroom, promising his students he could tell them to bottle fame and brew glory, or telling off two unruly second years for flying a car to Hogwarts and crashing it into the Whomping Willow, Rickman knew how to turn up the scary-teacher vibe during working hours. And in those scenes, you could almost forget Snape was a former Death Eater, an accomplished Legilimens, or anything other than the teacher most likely to dock house points or hand out detentions to anyone but Slytherins.
He kept us guessing.Up until the end of the the story, we never knew for sure whether or not Dumbledore was right to trust Snape. That was one of the book series’ greatest and most intriguing mysteries, and it played out just as well in the films. When it came to those intense moments where Snape’s true motives were being questioned, Alan Rickman balanced the character beautifully on that razor-thin line between Snape-is-Evil and Snape-is-Good. In the end, we did learn the truth, but going back, you can see how careful Rickman’s performance always was, never giving too much away one way or the other.
He made us cry.Severus Snape’s final scene is heartbreaking. It comes not long after confirmation that he has always loved Lily Potter, and that everything he did since her death was out of love and grief for the woman he loved. That includes risking and inevitably sacrificing his own life to ensure Harry fulfills his destiny of destroying Voldemort. When it came time for us to see Snape’s true colors, Alan Rickman delivered them beautifully, completing his character's story and breaking our hearts in the process.
"You have your mother’s eyes."
Thank you for a perfect portrayal of one of Harry Potter’s best characters, Alan Rickman.
We will remember you… always.