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Alan Rickman Was Only Person Who Knew About Snape's True Nature In Harry Potter

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Alan Rickman Was Only Person Who Knew About Snape's True Nature In Harry Potter

Alan Rickman was the only person to have the ‘inside line’ on his character’s true nature in the Harry Potter books and film series, having been told by J.K. Rowling early on.  

Rickman, who sadly died in 2016 at the age of 69, famously portrayed Hogwarts professor Severus Snape in all eight Harry Potter films, with fans only finding out that Snape was actually a double agent working to protect Potter in the final book and the second of the accompanying two-part film adaptation.  

In Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, his former co-stars speak about how much they had known about the future narrative while filming, with Sirius Black actor Gary Oldman saying he wishes he’d had the ‘whole picture’. 

Credit: HBO Max
Credit: HBO Max
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Daniel Radcliffe, who played the titular wizard in the films, also admits he didn’t know everything either.   

“Just Rickman,” Radcliffe tells Oldman in the forthcoming reunion special. 

“He had the inside line. He very, very early said to Jo, he was like, ‘I think I need to know what happens’.” 

Oldman laughs: “Rickman would have an in, wouldn’t he?!” 

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Radcliffe continues: “And he never told Chris [Columbus], he never told anyone. Chris would literally say to him, why are you doing that like that? He was like I’ll tell you later...” 

Rickman in 2011. Credit: Alamy
Rickman in 2011. Credit: Alamy

Speaking to The A.V. Club earlier this year, director Chris Columbus - who helmed the first two movies and also produced the third - remembered how Rickman's little 'idiosyncrasies' while performing made no sense to him at the time.

He said: "We convinced him to do it, and then J.K. Rowling took him out to dinner and told him something about what was going to happen to Snape throughout the series and in the seventh book."

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Because Rickman had more information about Snape than he did, the actor would include 'tiny little idiosyncrasies' in his performance.

"I'd walk up to him afterward and say, 'What was that?'" Columbus said.

"He would say, 'Oh, you'll know when you read the seventh book.'

"It was like, 'Well, yeah, but that doesn’t help me now. I’m directing the first movie.'"

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Once he read the seventh book, however, the director realised how 'brilliant' Rickman's decisions had been.

Credit: Warner Bros
Credit: Warner Bros

In a 2011 interview with the LA Times' Hero Complex, Rickman said he had always known his character was going to be a 'double agent'.

He said: “Rumour has it that she put the ending in a bank vault when she was writing the beginning.

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“So she held it all in her head, all seven books. It’s jaw-dropping, really.

“When we started she had only written three of the books so it was like trying to walk down two potential roads not at all knowing what the end would be but having some sense of what that man’s life was.

“I knew with Snape I was working as a double agent, as it turns out, and a very good one at that.”

Rickman in 2014. Credit: Alamy
Rickman in 2014. Credit: Alamy

That year, he also told HitFlix how she had given him 'one tiny, little left of field piece of information' that helped him realise Snap was 'more complicated' and that the story was 'not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought'.

"If you remember when I did the first film she'd only written three or four books, so nobody knew where it was really going except her," he added.

"And it was important for her that I know something, but she only gave me a tiny piece of information which helped me think it was a more ambiguous route.”

Rowling later revealed what the 'tiny' piece of information had been, tweeting in the wake of Rickman's death to say it was all about one simple word.


The 'always' refers to the part in the story where Dumbledore asks Snape if he still loved Potter's mother, Lily, 'after all this time'.

His reply was just one word: "Always."

You can watch Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts on New Year’s Day exclusively on Sky and streaming service NOW. NOW members can watch the TV specials with a NOW Entertainment Membership and enjoy all ten movies with a NOW Cinema Membership.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros

Topics: TV and Film, Harry Potter

Jess Hardiman
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