Snape was the tragic hero of Harry Potter, and Alan Rickman nailed it
It was like he’d stepped off the page and onto the screen
Snape. Snape. Severus Snape. Long before JK Rowling revealed the true motivations of Hogwarts’ antagonistic potions master, he was a fan favourite. From the moment he walked onto the screen with Alan Rickman’s face, however, he became something even greater.
It’s hard to remember and impossible to replicate the jaw-dropping wonder you felt the first time you watched Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Here it was, all the things you’d imagined in your head. OK, not everything was an exact match with what you’d imagined but it was close enough.
Alan Rickman didn’t settle for close enough though. By the time he’s finished saying “there will be no silly wand waving or incantations in this class” you’re convinced he’s somehow managed to walk out of the pages of the book and onto the screen. After he’s sneeringly referred to Potter as “our new celebrity” you’re on the internet checking if there even is such a thing as an Alan Rickman or whether he’s actually just been Snape all this time and nobody noticed.
As of today, there isn’t such a thing as Alan Rickman in the world anymore and it’s hard to put into words just how devastating that is for an entire generation of Potter-lovers. More than anyone else in the films, he was his character, so much so that it was retroactively impossible to watch him in anything else and not see Snape. Die Hard became the tale of Snape if he’d been a criminal, Love Actually was what might have happened if Snape had ever found true love and Sense and Sensibility was the result of him taking a time-turner all the way back to the days of Austen.
He could easily have become just another British thespian popping up for an easy payday and a film appearance the kids could watch but he refused to. Armed with just the tiniest hint from JK Rowling that his character may not be all he seemed from the first few books, he laid the groundwork for one of the most devastatingly tragic arcs in children’s literature. It’s hard to imagine the moment Snape killing Dumbledore being nearly as vivid without all the associations readers brought to the character through Alan Rickman.
When asked how he chose to portray Snape, Alan Rickman answered like any Potter fan would: “What I knew was he was a human being.” In a world of larger-than-life half-giants, talking hats and three-headed dogs, Severus Snape was a human being every reader recognised. He was the scary, intimidating teacher you feared at school that you always talked about with your friends. He was the unfair disciplinarian you dreamed of triumphing over. And years later, when you were grown up and taking your seat in the cinema for Deathly Hallows Part Two, he was the adult from your schooldays you looked back on with the greatest respect.
Alan Rickman embodied all of that and more and for this reason he will be our Potions Master. Always.