Alan Rickman was one of the most beloved actors who happened to play a series of evil characters that you kinda want to root for. Yes, he played an evil teacher in Harry Potter but, sometimes, the kids were so annoying that they needed to be put in their place. And Rickman was there to do it!
Rickman passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer in 2016, and though he had only finished his role of Severus Snape in 2011, he initially wanted out a lot sooner. His extensive diaries are about to be published in the upcoming book Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman which hits shelves on October 18th. Rickman chronicled his entire time filming the beloved series, though not all moments were gleeful, which isn’t surprising considering the massive fandom that exploded after the movies debuted. The actor kept detailed notes about his time on set, though he also wrote his fair share of commentary regarding how the series was made.
While on the set of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in December 2000, Rickman shared his feelings about the beginning of the series, which seemed to mimic exactly how his character would act. “Back to Harry P. The Great Hall with Maggie Smith, Zoë Wanamaker, Ian Hart, Richard Harris – all in their ways sweet, funny souls. But this is Tick Off The Shots filming – no big speech about the scene and what we’re all thinking. Maybe there isn’t time … Maybe … Too many people involved in the decisions. A hat has been made for Snape. A hat? For Snape?”
Rickman, of course, knew he was doing an amazing job amongst his co-stars, who were mostly children under the age of 11. Shortly after the release of the first film, producer David Heyman praised Rickman: “David Heyman calls to tell me how brilliant I am in HP.”
But as the series went on, Rickman was often negotiating with his agents to try to get out of playing the beloved character. When he went back to set for the second installment in January 2002, Rickman seemed to guess that he would be in it for the long haul: “Nice to see them all again but it’s a dreamlike thing, as if it has never stopped. And in a way, it hasn’t – and won’t …” By December of that year, Rickman was already asking to be out of the films: “Talking to [agent] Paul Lyon-Maris about HP exit, which he thinks will happen. But here we are in the project-collision area again. Reiterating no more HP. They don’t want to hear it.”
When he arrived on set for the third film in the spring of 2003, Rickman was basically going through the motions: “More of the same really. But what else can you do except get the shots – a choir, 300 children, one speech. People reading in the background.” Though this time, he actually began to see his co-stars as his peers. “Corridor with Dan Radcliffe. He’s so concentrated now. Serious and focused – but with a sense of fun. I still don’t think he’s really an actor but he will undoubtedly direct/produce. And he has such quiet, dignified support from his parents. Nothing is pushed.”
Eventually, Rickman starred in all eight of the films, though he seemed detached from the fandom: “Arriving at Radio City was like being a Beatle. Thousands of fans screamed as we got out of cars. Mostly for Daniel Radcliffe but a rush for everyone. Not to mention walking out on to the stage to 6,000.”
Rickman praised Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron for his work on the third installment, which has a darker feel than the rest. “Alfonso has done an extraordinary job. It is a very grown-up movie, so full of daring that it made me smile and smile. Every frame of it is the work of an artist and storyteller. Stunning effects that are somehow part of the life of the film, not show-off stunts.” Then, by January 2006, Rickman is confirmed to finish out his role in the series: “Finally, yes to HP 5. The sensation is neither up nor down. The argument that wins is the one that says: ‘See it through. It’s your story.’”
Despite his hesitation, Rickman said that co-star Daniel Radcliffe helped ease him into character: “I realise as soon as that [Snape’s] ring and costume go on – something happens. It becomes alien to be chatty, smiley, open. The character narrows me down, tightens me up. Not good qualities on a film set. I have never been less communicative with a crew. Fortunately, Dan [Radcliffe] fills that role with ease and charm. And youth.”
Finally, Rickman was able to close out the series after his last day on set in 2010: “All a bit hard to believe. I think even Daniel was shocked by the finality. Cameras were everywhere, it seemed (docu ones). [I am asked] ‘So how does it feel?’ Before you’ve felt it, before the feeling has a name. ‘It’s private,’ I managed, ‘and I’m not sharing it with that’ pointing at his lens. Something is in those cans and it is finished.”
Rickman ended up being unhappy with the film, though he knew that it was really the fan response that mattered. “I found it unsettling to watch – it has to change horses midstream to tell the Snape story and the camera loses concentration. Audience, however, very happy.”