More than any awards season in recent memory, the past few months has shined the spotlight on the great actors and actresses who still haven't been honored with the Oscar spotlight. Whether it's the embarrassing fact that Gary Oldman still hasn't been nominated once or that legendary actors such as Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer, Glen Close, Julianne Moore, Ian McKellen or Sigourney Weaver are statue-less, the unrecognized club has found more vocal support than usual. One member of that illustrious group who should be getting a bit more consideration for his work this year is none other than Alan Rickman.
Since stealing the show in “Die Hard,” the British theater and screen actor has been consistently superb in films such as “Sense and Sensibility,” “Truly Madly Deeply,” “Love Actually” and even “Galaxy Quest.” The Tony Award nominated actor's greatest performance to date, however, has been portraying Prof. Severus Snape in eight 'Harry Potter” films. Over the course of a decade, Rickman brought one of the most intriguing, entertaining, sly and unreadable characters to the screen. Moreover, thanks to Rowling's books, he gave Snape more of an arc than almost any of the other supporting “Potter” characters outside of the big three. Currently starring in the critically acclaimed new Broadway comedy “Seminar,”, Rickman took some time early this week to chat on the phone about bringing Snape's unexpectedly complex journey to an end. A journey that many believe is worthy of an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.
There is a longstanding story that Rowling let Rickman know early on that Snape was not the bad guy or Voldemort henchman in waiting many expected him to be. Before I could even finish my question about this anecdote Rickman jumped in to clarify.
“Not true. I don't know who thinks that is true, but it's not true,” Rickman says. “She gave me one tiny, little, left of field piece of information that helped me think that he 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. And its 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.”
So, in many ways, Rickman's portrayal through the series is even more impressive as he had just one nugget to use as he shaped Snape over the years.
Rickman adds, “What I knew was he was a human being and not an automaton and I knew there was some sense of protection for Harry or I worked that out. It was enough to know, I didn't know he was a double agent.”
When new books came out, however, the knowledge of Snape's future actions in stories down the road gave Rickman almost everything he needed (For example, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” novel was published in 2005 before even the preceding book, “Goblet of Fire” was just shooting)
“The books are so full of all you need to know and so full of details,” Rickman says. “That's why when I meet children and I ask, 'Have you read the books?' And they say, 'No, no, we just them on TV.' Then I say, 'Well, you've got to start reading the books.' And, of course, many of them do and become hooked in a very different way.”
Rickman also believed in and trusted Rowling to make Snape's story one of the more interesting narrative threads in the entire “Potter” series.
“The writer in this case is such as consummate storyteller that you let her lead you Whether she's given you all the information or not. Something in there leads you in the right direction,” Rickman says. “And the number of people who followed Snape's story as also a member of a reading audience is also a testament to Rowling's skills I think. And frankly, every time i put that costume on something weird took over. It's the only character and I suppose by my own instance really, never changed his costume over 10 years. Everybody else grew up or had different kinds of outfits. Never Snape and you sort of got the feeling that's the only thing he's got hanging in his wardrobe.”
And did Rickman keep that well worn frock?
“I don't think I dare tell you the answer to that,” Rickman replies mischievously.
[He did note, though, that he officially kept Snape's wand.]
It will truly be an upset if Rickman breaks his SAG, Golden Globe and Academy streak for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2,” but considering the money Warner Bros. has ponied up in for your consideration ads to remind the industry of just how critically acclaimed the film was and of Rickman's performance in particular, it wouldn't be shocking. And the film's inclusion on the National Board of Review's top ten films of 2011 was a nice sign that more accolades could be on the way for “Deathly Hallows.” In the meantime, Rickman is receiving raves for his leading role in “Seminar” which currently runs until March.
“It's been extraordinary to be just up the road from Daniel [Radcliffe] and to go up and see him twice [in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”]. Once at the beginning of his run and once when I came back to New York,” Rickman says. “Being on the stage in New York is always exciting because you feel like your' part of the life of the city. People are aware of theater here and it's a terrific play. It like people get touched in the laughter places and the pain places in an honest way so the audience response is very tangible.”
And if Oscar doesn't come calling, perhaps a third nomination will be the charm for Rickman at next year's Tony Awards. One thing's for sure, Rickman is too talented not to get rewarded by his peers at some point. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later.
Do you think Rickman deserves an Oscar nomination for his work as Snape in the “Harry Potter” series? Share your thoughts below.
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