Remembering Professor Snape: Alan Rickman’s Lasting Influence


Melanie Atzili–The Rampage

As I was scrolling through my Facebook account this morning, I came across a Buzzfeed UK headline that made me stop in my tracks: “Actor Alan Rickman Dies at Age 69.” Surely it had to be a hoax? Within a few seconds, though, I was forced to accept the sad truth as multiple articles popped up reporting on the British actor’s death from cancer.

“A part of me died when I heard the news,” senior Hong Tu said. Many of Rickman’s followers surely feel the same way.

This tragedy has hit rather too soon, as the world is still recovering from the death of British singer, songwriter and actor David Bowie (at the same age, also from cancer) just four days ago. There is no doubt, though, that the world will continue to remember Rickman, who was widely acclaimed as one of the best actors in Britain, for decades.

Rickman started his film career in 1978 as Tybalt in the BBC version of “Romeo and Juliet”. His other notable film roles include Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” (1988), Jamie in “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (1991), the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991), Alexander Dane in “Galaxy Quest” (1999), Harry in “Love Actually” (2003) and perhaps most famously Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” series (2001-2011).

Why did the passing of the actor playing our favorite double-agent Hogwarts teacher leave such a gaping hole in the hearts of his fans? Was it because Snape gradually revealed to us that he had some good in him and actually cared about the welfare of Harry Potter deep down? Was it his long-hidden love story with Lily Evans? Was it the courage he displayed in the face of having to lie to Lord Voldemort as Albus Dumbledore’s spy? Or was it the simple fact that Rickman brought one of the most important characters in the series to life?

I would venture a guess and answer “all of these”. We hated Snape for how unfairly he treated Harry yet let our hearts soften considerably when he tried, several times, to help Harry or save his life, not to mention that we cried incessantly following Snape’s death and the revelation of his true feelings about Lily.

In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman said, “He [Rickman] had a real understanding of the character, and now looking back, you can see there was always more going on there a�� a look, an expression, a sentiment a�� that hint at what is to come a�� the shadow that he casts in these films is a huge one, and the emotion he conveys is immeasurable.”

Through Rickman’s impeccable acting, Snape taught “Harry Potter” fans some incredibly important life lessons. He taught us to imagine people complexly, for he began the series as a totally despicable character and ended it as a known lover of Lily and a person capable of remorse. He taught us about the power love can have even years after its object (in this case, Lily) has died. He showed us that bullying should never be tolerated and that it can have consequences reaching far into the future, and demonstrated the danger of grudges and vengefulness. Harry gave his second son, Albus, the middle name “Severus” for a reason.

“We have all lost a great talent,” “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling tweeted. Indeed, fellow actors from Rickman’s repertoire of movies, particularly those from “Harry Potter” (with whom he had spent up to 10 years), will surely feel the pain of his absence for months, or perhaps years, to come. But will his legacy of excellence, passion and mentorship last well into the future? As stated by a popular Snape meme, “Obviously.”