When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter.
And my family will say to me,
“After all this time?”
And I will say,
The sharp features and languid manner of speech that once captivated viewers across the world have been silenced. Alan Rickman passed away at the age of 69, “surrounded by family and friends”, and hopefully, with a copy of one of the Harry Potter books cradled in his arms. He didn’t live to the age of 80, but certainly left his mark across the world as Severus Snape, as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, as the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
With a multitude of fine performances in iconic films over the years, Rickman cemented himself in Hollywood two days after landing in America – the director of Die Hard spotted him in the Broadway production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He shot to fame with his role as the devious Eurovillain Hans Gruber alongside Bruce Willis, and was one of the earliest British actors to play an American villain before it became mainstream. Yes, Tom Hiddleston, he did it when you were in your swaddling clothes.
Such was the acting prowess of Rickman as a baddie that he landed another of a villain, the outrageous Sheriff of Nottingham, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he won a BAFTA.
However, he wasn’t just known for playing negative characters. He played a lead role in the supernatural romance that was Truly, Madly, Deeply; then appeared in the less-talked about, but memorable Sense and Sensibility, an adaptation of Jane Austen‘s novel of the same name. Rickman, as Colonel Brandon wooed and subsequently won over Marianne played by Kate Winslet. With singular charm that was as unbelievable as inimitable, he swept everyone off their feet.
Yet, even after establishing himself as a Hollywood luminary, he kept returning to what brought him to Hollywood in the first place – the stage. He delivered sensational performances in theatrical productions such as Les Liaisons Dangereuses (with Lindsay Duncan) and Cleopatra (with Helen Mirren), and many more.
However, he joined a long list of actors made immortal by the characters they played when he appeared as the Master of Potions, Severus Snape. Finding a new world of fans as the sarcastic professor, Rickman brought Severus Snape to life, hiding inner anguish with a cold exterior and a trademark sneer.
Here we reproduce his final thoughtful and heartfelt goodbye letter to the role of Snape, after filming wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
‘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.
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 in stories. But the story needs a great storyteller. Thanks for all of it, Jo.