By Shauna Collier
Alan Rickman passed away today after a battle with cancer. I didn’t know him personally so I don’t grieve for him the way his closest friends and family must, but I can appreciate and thank him for bringing some of my favorite literary characters to life in the most marvelous way, and I can mourn the loss of such a talent.
Alan Rickman has a stellar reputation as an accomplished actor on both the stage and film. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a Tony award winner, an Emmy award winner, a Golden Globe winner, and he was Severus Snape.
Alan Rickman had many memorable roles, but for me the two that stand apart are his portrayals of Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. As a proud Jane-ite I can tell you the role of Colonel Brandon could not have been better cast than Alan Rickman. He is handsome and gentlemanly, but also quiet and grave. He doesn’t display his love for Marianne in a loud and exuberant way (side eye to you Mr. Willoughby), but instead shows it in his calm caring manner. He is there when she needs him, understands her high spirits, and placidly waits for her to realize he is the one she truly loves. His tender glances, gentle touch, and never ending patience still makes me swoon.
As much as I love his version of Colonel Brandon, that role will never be the first thing that pops into my head when someone mentions Alan Rickman. Mr. Rickman is, was, and will always be Severus Snape to me. His casting as the multi-faceted, layered, and complex Severus Snape was a stroke of pure genius. The greasy hair, the sallow complexion, the looks of utter loathing and disdain, the moments of tenderness, and the heartbreaking end to it all were rendered magnificently by Rickman.
I arrived by way of the Hogwarts Express to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry long after the final book was written. I read Harry Potter for the first time at 29, and I’ve read them at least 4 times through and I’m only 30. The books had me hooked from the first pages, and as I traveled through both the Wizarding and Muggle world with Harry Potter I grew to despise Severus Snape. The more snide comments about Harry Potter’s ego, his Father, his lack of skill in potions, and his celebrity status made my hate for Severus Snape grow. You shouldn’t hate people, but literary characters are an exception to the rule, and I fully took advantage of that exception. As the story progressed and I learned of Snape’s double agent status, I found myself questioning where is loyalties really lie. Did I trust Dumbledore or did I trust Harry’s instinct? This struggle for readers is an integral part of propelling the story until Snape’s final moments, when suddenly this character you’ve grown so much to loathe shows a rare moment of truth and tenderness.
After reading the books I had such a clear image of Severus Snape in my head that I knew it would be difficult for anyone to portray him up to my expectations, but Alan Rickman did that and so much more. The sweeping walk with the bat-like cape billowing, the intense stare, and the biting sarcasm were all there. And then in the end the raw emotion of “Always”, Lily’s eyes, and his realization of Dumbledore’s plan were so heartbreakingly real that the line between fiction and reality blurred, and you forget just for a moment that what you are watching isn’t real. You share in their sorrow and their grief. I had those same moments in the book as I mourned the loss of characters I had grown so fond of. Alan Rickman brought a character that elicited such strong responses from me in the book and accomplished the same thing on film, and for that I thank him.
So today I’ll sit with my “After all this time…always” coffee mug, watch the Deathly Hallows, and be grateful for the man who so faithfully depicted Severus Snape on the big screen. Farewell Mr. Rickman, rest in peace. Draco Dormers Nunquam Titillandus.