J.K. Rowling reveals secret about Snape that she told Alan Rickman

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Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." (Getty Images.)
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” (Getty Images.)

LONDON — “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has revealed the clue she told Alan Rickman that helped shape the way he portrayed Severus Snape in the movie adaptations of the famed book series.

When taking questions from Twitter fans on Monday, Rowling was asked by follower Sarah Rose Frank, “Will you tell us the piece of information that you told Alan Rickman about Severus Snape? Or will that forever be a secret?”

The fan’s question was likely motivated from previous interviews with Rickman; the late actor hinted more than once to reporters that he’d been given information on his character that only Rowling knew. The first movie came out before the final few books were written, and most people in 2001 weren’t privy to how the series would end or further details about the seemingly villainous Snape.

Rickman told RTE in 2011:

She certainly didn’t tell me what the end of the story was going to be in any way at all, so I was having to buy the books along with everybody else to find out, ‘And now what?’ No, she gave me one little piece of information, which I always said I would never share with anybody and never have, and never will. It wasn’t a plot point, or crucial in any tangible way, but it was crucial to me as a piece of information that made me travel down that road rather than that one or that one or that one.

That same year, producer David Heyman told the Los Angeles Times, “[T]here 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.'”

So when Rowling saw the question posed to her, asking her what detail only she and Rickman shared early in the films’ production, the author revealed the clue Rickman never would.

Rowling’s response: “I told Alan what lies behind the word ‘always.'”

The word “always” is perhaps Snape’s most famous line in the series, as it signals a shift in the character’s persona. “Always” is in reference to Snape’s undying love of Harry’s mother, Lily.  To that point Snape was considered a sinister character out to destroy Harry. But through this line it was revealed, through Harry seeing Snape’s old memories, that Snape was in fact a double agent whose mission was to destroy Lord Voldemort, a mission sparked by his love for Lily.

As Harry watches the events unfold, he sees Dumbledore ask Snape, “After all this time?”

“Always,” Snape replies.

Rickman died Thursday at the age of 69 after battling cancer.

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