Alan Rickman, the actor perhaps best known among our Harry Potter obsessed generation as Professor Snape, has died at the age of 69. According to his family, the cause of death was cancer.
Does anybody else feel like this is the death knell of their childhood? Because I sure do.
I woke up and saw a text message from my roommate that said, “RIP Professor Snape 🙁” I went from barely awake to alert in an instant, checking Twitter to confirm the news. My heart sank, and as I scrolled through my Twitter feed, the outpouring of grief was palpable. While Alan Rickman was an overall brilliant actor who had great performances in movies like Die Hard, Dogma, and even Love Actually, his gig as the perpetually foul and delightfully mysterious Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film franchise will definitely go down in history as one of the most memorable roles of all time.
As someone who got into the first few movies before finally deciding to give the books a proper shot, it was impossible not to see Alan Rickman as I read Snape’s withering one-liners or enraged speeches. As my interest in the series grew, Snape quickly became one of my favorite characters. Maybe I just have a thing for sullen, morally grey a-holes with greasy hair and effed up pasts, but even murdering Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince couldn’t shake off his appeal in my eyes; honestly it made him even more alluring. You know that you’ve created an amazing character when they can be the absolute worst and still be one of the best characters. And when you have a brilliant actor like Alan Rickman playing that character? Gold.
Even when I became a bit more of a book purist and thought, “Rickman is great, but isn’t he technically too old for this role?” or “Why are the screenwriters turning Snape into a caricature who pauses…forever…between…each…word?” or “WHY IS SNAPE CRADLING LILY’S DEAD BODY WHILE BABY HARRY CRIES IN THE BACKGROUND?” I knew that Rickman was hands down the most talented actor in the entire Harry Potter cast. Goofy wig and ellipses ridden lines aside, you always got the impression that Rickman actually studied Snape’s character from both the books and from JK Rowling’s insight. We can even forget his deep, silky smooth voice for a second and just focus on his facial expressions during scenes where he wasn’t even speaking; his muted cringe as Lavender Brown wailed over Won-Won in the hospital wing, his side eye when Professor Umbridge interrogated him during a potions lesson…Rickman embodied all those Snapely characteristics without even opening his mouth. It was those little things that truly felt special to witness.
Fun fact: Did you know that Rickman wasn’t even originally supposed to play Professor Snape at all? Actor Tim Roth was originally tapped for the role, but opted out to join the soon to be critically panned and short lived Planet of the Apes franchise instead. Yikes. But at this point, can you imagine a world where Rickman didn’t play Snape? I won’t hesitate to say that Rickman helped make the Harry Potter movies what they are today. Whether he was making you laugh or cry, he was just a damn joy to watch on screen, and it’s sad to know that he won’t light up a screen ever again.
At a time when we’re so used to finding out that our faves are either “problematic” or just straight up jerks, it’s refreshing to know that Rickman isn’t one of those people. While he was so good at playing bad guys, there isn’t a single account of him being anything but a sweet, generous, and kind man. For example, in the wake of Rickman’s death, Daniel Radcliffe made a statement noting that Rickman was one of the first adult actors on the Potter set to actually treat him like a fellow actor, not just a kid. He gave Matthew Lewis some of the greatest acting advice he’d ever received. Emma Thompson (who played Professor Trelawney and his wife in Love Actually) said he was “the ultimate ally” and she trusted him completely. And JK Rowling herself stated that he wasn’t just a wonderful actor, but a wonderful man as well.
There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman's death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 14, 2016
My thoughts are with Rima and the rest of Alan's family. We have all lost a great talent. They have lost part of their hearts.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 14, 2016
Like everyone else we mourn–whether it’s someone we know IRL or a public figure–all we can do is hold on to the memories. Luckily, we can do that by playing movie clips from Rickman’s best Snape scenes and watching that “MY BODY IS READY” GIF on loop for eternity. All I know is that I’m definitely up for binge watching Harry Potter tonight and reaching peak nerd. Who’s with me?
Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. You’ll always be a part of our fondest memories.
Are you just as bummed out as the Gurl team is about Alan Rickman’s death? What’s your favorite Alan Rickman role? Tell us in the comments.