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Alan Rickman knew Snape’s ending in Harry Potter before everyone else

Alan Rickman played Snape in the Harry Potter movies, knew the character's ending years before anyone else involved, and often argued about it

Alan Rickman as Professor Snape in Harry Potter

Alan Rickman as Snape was a perfect adaptation of the beloved Harry Potter character. The actor brought just the right amount of sneer to the role, and completely sold his biggest twists. It turns out that Rickman knew something the other filmmakers didn’t, and occasionally argued with them about it.

Rickman took on Snape in the first Harry Potter movie, released in 2001, several years before the final book would be written. No spoilers, but there are some revelations about Snape’s behaviour that recontextualise everything about him. Author JK Rowling gave Rickman all of this information in order to elevate the performance, and he’d argue against filmmaking choices with this in mind.

“It was quite amusing, too, because there were times when a director would tell Alan what to do in a scene and he would say something like, ‘No I can’t do that — I know what is going to happen and you don’t’,” David Heyman, producer on the Harry Potter franchise, told LA Times. “He had a real understanding of the character and now looking back, you can see there was always more going on there — a look, an expression, a sentiment — that hint at what is to come.”

Rickman himself, who sadly passed in 2016, viewed knowing how it all goes down as a blessing. “I would be doing other things but always come back to [Harry Potter], and I was always aware of my place in the story even as others around me were not,” he explained as the franchise concluded. “Am I sad? The point about a great story is that it’s got a beginning, a middle and end. The ending of this story was quite popular and beautifully judged – it’s a cause for celebration that it was rounded off so well.”

Indeed, the mainline Harry Potter films continue to be widely adored by fans of all ages. Rickman’s performance is one of the through-lines that hooks viewers young and old into the world of witchcraft and wizardry, casting a spell on them that lasts a lifetime.

The latest Harry Potter installment, prequel Fantastic Beasts 3, can now be watched on HBO Max in the US.