Alan Rickman's Diaries Reveal What He Really Thought of His "Harry Potter" Co-Stars
"I still don’t think he’s really an actor," Rickman wrote of one young star.
For 10 years, Alan Rickman starred in the Harry Potter film franchise as Hogwarts professor Severus Snape. During that time—and for much of his life—the late actor kept diaries in which he would jot down memories from his day. Excerpts of those diaries have now been published by The Guardian ahead of the book Madly, Deeply: The Alan Rickman Diaries being released on Oct. 4.
In the diary entries that focus on his Harry Potter journey, Rickman, who died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer, writes about his time on set, attending premieres and parties, and his desire to quit the role before the series was finished. He also talks about his co-stars and the directors he worked with on the movies, sharing his unfiltered opinions of them. Read on for the actor's true feelings about his Harry Potter colleagues, all from his personal writings.
READ THIS NEXT: Hugh Grant Said It Was "Tense" Working With This Co-Star.
He called his fellow professors "sweet."
The first film in the series of book adaptations, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, began shooting on Oct. 10, 2000. A couple months into filming, Rickman wrote in a Dec. 11 entry, "Back to Harry P. The Great Hall with Maggie Smith, Zoë Wanamaker, Ian Hart, Richard Harris—all in their ways sweet, funny souls." Those cast members played Professor McGonagall, Madame Hooch, Professor Quirrell, and Albus Dumbledore, respectively. In this entry, Rickman added of director Chris Columbus, "Fortunately Chris Columbus is also a sweet, funny soul and you kind of guess what he's thinking, what he wants. Certainly if you step outside that he's in sharpish. So it gets done. And it all looks just fine."
In a post years later, on Feb. 7, 2008, his words reflect how much time had passed since the cast had started playing their roles, and he spoke of Smith again. "The story of this so-far-six-part epic is one minute there were all these little kids … now?" Rickman said. "Found Maggie in her trailer vulnerable and [expletive]-it—all at once."
He watched Daniel Radcliffe grow up.
Working on the film franchise for a decade, Rickman watched the actors who played Hogwarts students go from children to young adults. In his diaries, he wrote about Daniel Radcliffe, who starred as Harry, on multiple occasions throughout the years.
On May 2, 2003, when they were filming the third movie, Rickman wrote, "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."
Later, on April 12, 2006, he reflected on the transformation that occurred when he got into his own 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," Rickman said. "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."
Two years later, on Dec. 9, 2008, he made an entry about getting lunch with Radcliffe, by then an adult. "Lunch w. Dan Radcliffe at Cafe Cluny," the actor recalled. "One minute he was 12 now he's 19. When did that happen? And he's sensitive, articulate & smart. And owns a three-bed apt in NY."
He recorded his opinion of Emma Watson's performance.
One of the Harry Potter series' defining features is that it brought celebrated adult actors together with relatively unknown child performers. Surely, those established stars had thoughts about their young colleagues' work, and now we have some of Rickman's opinions in black and white. He wrote about Hermione actor Emma Watson's enunciation in an entry about the director of the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarón.
"He's under the usual HP pressure and even he starts rehearsing cameras before actors, and these kids need directing," Rickman wrote. "They don't know their lines and Emma [Watson]'s diction is this side of Albania at times."
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He shared a "rude" thought about one particular co-star.
In a diary entry from Dec. 13, 2004, Rickman wrote of working with Predrag Bjelac, who played Igor Karkaroff in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "Last scene with Pedja [actor Predrag Bjelac] who I rudely described as [like] working with a sideboard on wheels," the actor jotted down. "Nothing to do with him as a (complex, delightful) person but more to do with the way he manages to bang into you at any opportunity."
He got along great with Voldemort.
Rickman noted how much he enjoyed working with Voldemort actor Ralph Fiennes, while also writing about his disagreements with director David Yates, who made the last four films in the series.
"Cold, wet, draughty but the crew seem miles away so Ralph and I can just get on with inching our way towards the scene," Rickman wrote on Nov. 25, 2009. "David Y stubborn as ever about V[oldemort] killing me with a spell. (Impossible to comprehend, not least the resultant wrath of the readers.) Great working with Ralph, though. Direct and true and inventive and free."
He called Michael Gambon "spellbinding."
Michael Gambon replaced Harris as Dumbledore after Harris' death following the second movie. In March 2010, Rickman wrote about working with Gambon and the state of his health.
"To HP to rehearse with Michael Gambon. On the way back to the trailer Michael talks of his fear of learning/forgetting his lines," Rickman wrote on March 8. He added on March 10, "Just me and Michael G. All day. He's vulnerable after his illness and yesterday's primer was no joke for him. The lines are a real problem for him. Technology helps and why not? It's never great when it's just a memory loss—no relaxation, no freedom, no contact. I'd have boards and autocue everywhere. And anyway when he unleashes a bit of magnificence it's effortless and spellbinding."
Rickman wanted to walk away from the series.
Apparently, if Rickman had had his way, we might have had a Harry Potter franchise in which he was replaced as Snape by a different actor partway through. On Dec. 4, 2002, the star wrote in his diary, "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." This would have been after the second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and before the third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Rickman doesn't explain in these excerpts why he decided to stay on, but in a later entry, after the premiere of the third film, he wrote happily that Azkaban was "very grown-up movie, so full of daring that it made me smile and smile."