Ahead of its release in October 2022, excerpts from the book Madly Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman have been shared by The Guardian on Saturday 24 September, including some of the late actor’s entries in his secret journals.
Among many insights into the movie industry and the different characters Rickman played in his lifetime were some mentions of what most people would probably deem his iconic role: the sarcastic yet beloved Professor Severus Snape in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
But before we give you all the goss on your favourite wizards, and why, in the end, Rickman decided to keep his role in the movie franchise, it’s important we clarify the reason behind the Die Hard villain questioning it all in the first place.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Rickman died in January 2016 in London at the age of 69 after quietly fighting prostate cancer, which he was first diagnosed with in 2005. This meant that the actor still had to film four more Harry Potter movies while fighting the disease—a highly difficult feat that understandably required him to think twice about it.
Nonetheless, shortly after being diagnosed, Rickman agreed to return to film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as Professor Snape. According to his journals, in January 2006, the actor had received treatment and undergone a procedure to have his prostate removed. “Remembering nothing but with that painkiller high in the recovery room,” he wrote at the time.
Yet, in a journal entry dated 30 January 2006, he penned: “Finally, yes to HP 5. The sensation is neither up nor down. The argument that wins is the one that says: ‘See it through. It’s your story’.”
Only a couple of months later however, Rickman seemed to suggest that both his cancer and his moody character were taking a toll on his personal behaviour on set, writing on 12 April, “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. 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.”
An entry from 27 July 2007 shed light on the actor’s thoughts after he finished the last Harry Potter book, “… I have finished reading the last Harry Potter book. Snape dies heroically, Potter describes him to his children as one of the bravest men he ever knew and calls his son Albus Severus. This was a genuine rite of passage. One small piece of information from Jo Rowling seven years ago—Snape loved Lily—gave me a cliff edge to hang on to.”
Then, on 14 January 2010, Rickman put into words how he felt after filming the very last scene of Professor Snape: his death. “Here I am with Dan, Emma and Rupert 10 (?) years on (Emma is here on a break from Brown University), blood all over my throat from an imagined Nagini [Voldemort’s pet snake], the three of them still with furrowed brows and panting a bit,” he wrote.
“Finding it hard to remember any particular scenes over the years mainly because all the decisions are taken in committee rooms and not on the floor. We listen as DY [director David Yates] tells us what we are thinking and why (and in some cases recounts the story… ) and a small piece of something creative caves in.”
Writers have a way of bringing their characters to life through carefully chosen words—after all, it’s what they live for. That being said, only a few manage to create such detailed universes we’ve all wished we could live in them. Harry Potter, JK Rowling’s series of fantasy novels, is probably the first example that comes to mind, followed by The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hunger Games.
But when it comes to adapting such complex stories into film, casting the perfect actors who not only look like how the characters are depicted in the books but are also able to give off the same energy is no easy feat. When it comes to Harry Potter for example, Neville Longbottom’s character was said to be blonde in the books. Yet in the movies, Matthew Lewis, who played Longbottom, kept his natural hair colour, brown. It makes you wonder, did the cast of the Harry Potter movies really look like their book counterparts?
It seems like one Vietnamese artist faced the same question, which led her to use artificial intelligence to show the rest of the world the similarities (and similarities) she had found between both. Here are 20 AI-generated images of exactly what the Harry Potter characters should have looked like according to JK Rowling’s words.
In the books, Sirius Black is described as tall, with long black hair and greyish eyes. It’s also mentioned that he was rather good looking—“carelessly handsome,” in fact. Oh, prior to his imprisonment, of course…
In the book series, Severus Snape is a thin man with sallow skin, a large hooked nose and yellow uneven teeth. His hair is greasy and pitch black, grown down to his shoulders. Snape’s eyes are cold, black and he wears flowing robes of black too that gust as he walks, giving him the appearance of an “overgrown bat.”
Ginevra Weasley, or Ginnie, is described as energetic, lively but shy and always blushing in Harry Potter’s presence. JK Rowling also notes that she is tough but not in an unpleasant way, rather in a gusty way. Ginnie is also warm and compassionate. She has freckles dusted over her pale skin and flaming red hair which she wears in a long mane down her back.
Hermione Granger is described to have “bushy brown hair” with brown eyes to match. Her front buck teeth are too large for her face. She has prominent features, externally but also in her personality, shown through her cleverness and logical matter-of-fact way of conducting herself.
Harry Potter has his father’s perpetually untidy black hair, his mother’s bright green eyes and, of course, a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. He was written to be small and quite skinny for his age, with a thin face and “knobbly knees” but, by the end of the series, he develops into a tall, handsome young man.
According to the books, Luna Lovegood had straggly, waist-length, dirty blonde hair with very pale eyebrows and “protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look.” She is quirky in personality and has a serene disposition.
Young Tom Riddle, who then became Voldemort, had jet black hair and was actually rather handsome. His dark eyes transformed later to match an attitude rather than colour, as the whites of his eyes turned permanently bloody after his rebirth. He became tall and skeletally thin, with a face whiter than a skull and a nose that was flat as a snake’s and that had slits for nostrils.
Ron Weasley is described as tall, thin and gangling. Freckles all over his skin, much like the rest of the Weasley family. He had big hands and feet, a long nose and a mop of bright red, messy hair. His humorous personality is reflected in his mannerisms.
Principle Dolores Umbridge, according to Harry’s description of her in The Order of the Phoenix, was large and pale, toadlike. She had a squat figure and a little neck, with a wide and slack mouth. Her eyes were described as large and round, slightly bulging. Lovely…
Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s first cousin, was spoiled by his parents. He had not much of a neck but a large pink face and small watery blue eyes. He had thick blonde hair that lay smoothly on his thick head. Described by his mother to look like a baby angel, but by Harry as a “pig in a wig.” We’ll take Harry’s word for it…
Draco Malfoy was described as a slender boy with sleek and blonde, almost white hair. He had cold grey eyes, a pale complexion and sharp, pointed features. JK Rowling pictured him to have haughty good looks. As an older man, his hairline started to recede which further accentuated his sharp features.
The books described Neville Longbottom to have a round face—in fact, he was imagined to be short, plump and blonde. He lacked self-confidence and was quite shy starting out in the first novel, but developed into a bolder and more courageous character later on. Gotta love Neville.
Fleur Delacour was described as stunning. A beautiful girl with golden hair and large blue eyes, she had a light, airy figure. In the books, she comes across as a little arrogant because of her good looks, but she is also kind with a generous heart.
Potter’s eventual sweetheart, Cho Chang was described to be a pretty girl with long, straight and shiny dark hair. She had a freckled nose and was generally described as sweet, well-mannered and easy to get along with.
Nymphadora Tonks, or just ‘Tonks’ is first described in the books as having a pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling eyes and short, spiky hair that was a violent shade of violet. She is brave, dependable and selfless in character.
The caretaker at Hogwarts, Argus Filch was described as bitter and rather cruel, and seemed to hate the students. He wandered around the school corridors with his cat Mrs Norris, trying to catch students who broke the rules. He was pale in skin tone and had a soft and greasy voice as well as a scrawny body. Funnily enough, his beloved cat was described to look much the same.
Bellatrix Lestrange was described as a tall woman that had long, thick and shining black hair. She had thin lips, dark and somewhat heavy-lidded eyes. More details also painted her as classically good looking, with a strong jaw and features. She was impulsive in personality, thrill-seeking and indulgent.
As a Quidditch enthusiast, and eventually Captain of the team, Cedric Diggory was tall, which was unusual for a seeker. He was described to be extremely handsome with chiselled features, dark hair, and bright grey eyes. His personality was brave, kind and Hufflepuff to a T.
In the books, Gilderoy Lockhart was described to be foppish but also handsome. He had wavy blonde hair and particularly straight and shiny teeth. He was known for wearing flamboyant, flashy and incredibly extravagant robes in a wild array of different colours. He was, however, extremely vain, and like most vain people, he was terribly insecure. Oopsie.
Remus Lupin was described as compassionate, intelligent, tolerant, level-headed, peaceful and, overall, good-natured. He was tall and had brown hair with brown eyes to match. Later, his hair greyed and became a little shabbier but remained unwerewolf-like, which was what he really was, come full moon.