'Having almost nothing at your disposal often produces the best
work,' says Alan Rickman. 'All the information that you might need is there
in the text, so you just get your miner's helmet on and go and look for it.
Each really great text makes its own demands, and with this one you have to
hand yourself over completely and trust that the director has done their homework
and has a point of view.
'I have a copy of a letter which was given to me by a friend, to whom Beckett wrote about having attended some rehearsals. He wasn't that happy because he says in the letter: "I don't suppose they'll ever get the voice right." He said it should have an ashen, abstract quality. Ashen and abstract, I suppose, are two very difficult qualities to reproduce on stage, because they'd be inaudible. So it's great that his works are being put on film, and I'm sure Beckett would be happy too, because he's getting the vocal quality, hopefully, that's the one that's in his head.
'I get the impression that theatre sometimes frustrated him as much as it excited him. He always wanted to make it purer, purer, purer - it's almost like an installation, or performance art.
'Beckett tests the audience as much as the performers, and that's the whole point. Great writing is not meant to be a palliative. In the world that we live in, there are more and more palliatives, shorter and shorter attention spans, and the tragedy is that we will end up with a culture that is less and less able to respond to Beckett. The audience won't know that you have to do a bit of work to get into the play. As an audience member, you have to give yourself to the piece of work. It's not just going to come and stroke you.
'However good you are as an actor, you're never as good as the play. Actors are poor souls. We can only throw ourselves against the wall. Hope to stick a bit.'
Interview with Alan Rickman for Unreel Magazine
Q: Can you tell us a little about your character, Professor Snape?
A: Well, he's a Professor of Potions and the current head of Slytherin House ant Hogwarts-the scholl of wizardry that harry attends, but he harbours a secret ambiton to be a Professor of Dark Arts. He isn't that taken with Harry though, probably because he finds him a little too popular for a first year pupil i suppose. I think at heart, Snape is basically quite an insecure person, he's always longing to be something else that people would really respect like a black magician, not just a school master. Thats why he envies the more popular and successful boys like Harry. he does have his positive side though, even though Harry's a thorn in his side he doesn't let it worry him too much.
Q:In the earlier part of your life, you were also in a profession that you wanted to get out of so you could become something else that people would respect more, do you think this was the element of yourself that you brought to the part of Snape?
A:Hmm, thats an interesting quesiton, i'm not sure i can answer it. I dont know if its for me to judge, you'd have to ask the people around me.....family and colleagues. You use yourself in everything you do, but at the same time you've got to have a very clear idea of another person. Otherwise i don't see how you can hand yourself over to it. He's not me. And also perhaps at particular times in your life you recognise certain parts as being closer to you now than they might have been five years ago. But no, every part has to have its own life to me-it isn't just me wiping myself across a stage or screen
Q:Professor Snape is also a Quidditch referee, does this mean you've now mastered all the rules?
A: No and I dont intend to
Q: This first Harry Potter movie has a mainly British cast even though it's a hollywood film, you've been quite outspoken on the problems with the British film industry, was it refreshing to be working with so many fellow Brits?
A:The thing I like best about working with British actors is the approach they take to their work, because they're not as likely to become famous making British films they don't have as inflated a sense of their own importance as some American stars can develop. It's like [director] Chris [Columbus] said 'there's not a sense of ego with any of the stars, none of that Hollywood stuff. Everone just comes in to do their work. Nobody has a cook or a personal trainer'. I think everyone found that refreshing.
Q:Director Chris Columbus said his young daughter Eleanor was a great help as an unofficial consultant on the film because she was such a big fan of the Harry Potter books. Did you have any young consultants yourself?
A:My two young nieces Claire and Amy have both read the books, I didn't consult them on my performance but I like to spend time with them whenever I can. We do all those daft things-movies, Mc Donalds, Hamleys. One time I told them we'd walk through Hamleys and choose one thing each. They marched straight to the Barbie counter-I couldn't believe it-hideous little dolls with pointed legs and breasts. My sister doesn't dress them in pink or bows. However, if I had children, I'd like to think I'd let them wear whatever they wanted. None of my friends would beleive me but I'd let them walk down the street in pink Lurex and gold plastic.
Q:Or let them attend a school for wizardly and witchcraft?
A: Even that!
Q:Alan thankyou very much for your time and good luck with the film
A: Thankyou, its been a pleasure.