Alan Rickman - French Interview Translation

French magazine 'Total Star' April/May 2005
(thanks to Sionna for investigating on this!)

Total Star is a flashy movie, tv, stars magazine for teenagers; lots of good looking actors/actresses, loads of posters. The comments on French Snape forums were that they buy it for the posters and were glad to have one interview in their own language. It's not the kind of magazine I'd been looking at for a good interview, but I'm not a teenager and quite critical about the press in general. Alan Rickman is known for a non-cooperative attitude towards the press, unless he wants to promote something that is important to him which is usually something more important than Snape. I simply have a hard time to imagine him giving such a long interview on Snape only to a magazine like that.


Original image

Other Alan Rickman interviews here

Brought to my attention by Christiane (thank you!!)

Lady Claudia's note: I think he gave an interview that is as long as this one, but nothing more. There must be someone asking for favors from that magazine because it's the second time they have something about him.  I've translated this myself because I trust my own translations because I'm highly critical on my own performances. I've decided to favour the meaning rather than the style here, so some sentences may appear a bit strange in English, but I didn't want anyone to be confused by possible meanings. I'm very adamant on that!  I always got 90% and up in my university translation class, so this is a high-quality translation, no need to ask your French buddy "Is this right?" because my first language and I also happen to be good at it!  So have no fears of bad translation in this case, I say so because I think those are a nightmare!  And those horrible translation web sites usually gives you worst results than if you try on your own!  I know, I'm a teacher who has to detect when a text has been translated that way, I can detect it when a translation site has been used!  Anyway, here it is!



Lady Claudia's comments

Severus Snape, the merciless professor of Potions whose heart seems as black as his garb (garments), hides numerous secrets.  Who in fact is this enigmatic character? To learn more about him, we have met with his interpret, Alan Rickman.

-Severus Snape was born on January 9th. Did you celebrate his birthday?

-[Alan]  Now that would be the only thing I/we hadn't thought of  I already have much trouble remembering my own birthday [laughs]. No, seriously, I know that it's very sad for Snape that nobody celebrates his birthday.  We may decide to organize something next year [smiles].

I find this question and answer immensely funny because of the irony that we did celebrate his birthday!! Ha ha!  

Rickman admits that it's sad nobody celebrates his birthday. I really really wonder if he meant that as: "poor him, he's a bad guy so no one is bound to celebrate his birthday" or "poor him, he looks like the bad guy but in fact he isn't so people don't celebrate his birthday." Of course I think it's the latter because I believe he's not evil and this is why I like Rickman's answer because he didn't say: "Why would anyone celebrate the birthday of a villain?!" No, he didn't. He said it was said nobody thought of him that way, meaning that it's probably because he is a misunderstood character and/or one that has problem making friends.  

I wonder if they did something this year ; )

Translation note ['il ne manquerait plus que ça' is a French expression of surprise meaning that you hadn't thought about the suggestion before because you thought the subject had been covered from top to bottom but here comes yet another idea  you or everyone hadn't thought of before OR that you are surprised at the suggestion because it is so unlikely for you to have thought of that since you already have trouble remembering something else that is more important. It is  much like saying "Now that is something I would never have thought of on my own because I already have trouble remembering my own birthday. It would be weird if I'd remember his birthday while I can't remember mine!" I am pretty sure this second meaning applies ].

-We gradually discover what Snape went through in the past. It seems he didn't have it easy as a teenager...

-[Alan] He wasn't very sociable either.  Snape never had friends.


Good! Finally some confirmations!  I know many of you will say 'old news' but I don't think so, we never had confirmations before! I should  know unless Rowling gave an interview of which I am unaware of! ; )

Facts: Snape had it hard in his teenage years and he wasn't very sociable either. Thank you, Mr. Rickman because in the books, Sirius said Snape used to hang around people who turned out to be Death Eaters but I always thought this was not to be taken at face value. How could Snape really stick around with a gang?! No, I always thought he was the solitary type, the rejected one and this is the first external proof of it we have. Rickman knows more about the 'official Snape' than anybody else because he's been told secrets from Rowling herself (lucky him!) and as an actor, Rickman got into the character and acted as though he himself had this background. And that gives us a wonderful Snape who is genuine to his past as well. Snape never had friends. Very important!! Friends mean someone to help you, someone to kick other people's ass if you are attacked, someone to support you, to understand you... Yet here it says Snape never had friends which I had predicted from the very start because it's typical of Snappish characters. I've had some friends but on the whole I had very few and for short periods of time or it was just friendliness, not as in friendship. I know what it's like, and again I say Snape must have been a swat, too, and it made matters worst.

Lily Potter really tried to be nice with him, but Snape couldn't support her pity.  

And finally something tangible about Lily!! Yeah! That's exactly my opinion: Snape couldn't live with Lily's pity. He thought it was pity because he doesn't know what free love is I believe. I wonder how much Snape couldn't take it because 1)Lily was a girl, 2) a Gryffindor, 3) a mudblood  4) he was a half-blood himself and didn't want that to be revealed if he befriended a mudblood, 5) Doesn't want to be seen with mudbloods because he is a Slytherin. I also wonder how many times she tried to befriend him?! I wish he had said something about that!!

And with James Potter, his best mate Sirius Black and their partner in crime Lupin spending their time ridiculing him, he shut himself in even more.

I like the way he describes the Marauders: partners in crime. Indeed, I always thought of them that way though surely in a much more pejorative way than Harry Potter fans. I know because I would be on the receiving end of the popular-cool guys' jokes!  But thanks to my parents, I learnt of ways to cope with this and I learnt to ask for help. Did Severus even had a chance to do that? I think not!  And his being a man surely made matters worse.

"Spending their time ridiculing him" I'm glad we have this confirmation that Snape's Worst Memory was NOT an isolated event. It was the USUAL. And that my friends is very hurtful!  And there you have it, Snape shut himself in even more. This tells us two things: Snape is already prone to shut himself from others and bullying made that even worst. I'm glad to have yet another confirmation that Snape is simply someone who has just himself in which is very different from people like Lucius who keep secrets in but not themselves. They hide their true intentions but it's not the same as walling your heart from inside which is why I always said Lucius and Snape were very different people.

Snape's life is much more complex than it seems.

Ha ha! I also find ironic that Rickman would say that Snape's life is much more complex than it seems because I've got loads and loads of pages about it ; ) And you, too, have written loads about him ^_^  But yes, I understand that Rickman meant to send a message to the normal Harry Potter fandom!

[new paragraph in the article]  He was a member of the Death Eaters and then became a turncoat to join Dumbledore' side. But his past keeps clinging onto him,  so coupled with his demeanor few trust him.

Interesting!  I wonder if Rickman really said (in English) that Snape was a turncoat to join Dumbledore's side using the same equivalent words in English?!  Here he confirms that Snape did not simply decide to work for Dumbledore, but he decided to join the side of the Light. And since Rickman mentions "but his past keeps clinging", it confirms that he is still on that side even though he is part of the Good side.  And that is important because Rickman explains exactly why people don't trust Snape to non-Snape fans and he's really trying to say: "The reason why you think he's evil is because of his past and his demeanor, but he's changed side you know." And so it confirms what we've all known from the start: Snape is a very misunderstood character.

-He appears to know Igor Karkaroff well when he comes to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament.

-[Alan] It's true that these two know each other well. But I cannot talk too much about their relationship to those who have not read the book. We shouldn't kill the suspense.

I always wondered how come they knew each other so well because I would like to know what they did together within the Death Eaters.  Was Igor Karkaroff a student at Hogwarts? Was he someone introduced to him by Lucius? Or was Igor simply on the same level as Severus in the Death Eaters and they 'met' there? When and where did those two know each other?  And why would Igor trust Snape so much since Death Eaters (we all assume) are in a dogs eat dogs world?  There has to be a connection that makes them closer or maybe it's the sole fact that they bear the same mark.

And then Snape has so many secrets because he knows a lot a people. And not only nice people of course.

Translation note ["Et puis Rogue a tellement de secrets qu'il connait beaucoup de monde" I doubt this sentence would have made it into the text if it had been examined by a rigorous French teacher. It's as though this sentence had been translated directly from English without much concern over French grammar or it uses modern oral French grammar which we never use on paper. Let's try to translate it back into English first: "And then Snape has so many secrets that/because he knows a lot of people" I hesitate between that or because or simply because there may be a French word missing there such as 'parce qu'il' (because). But I think the real meaning of 'qu'il connait' in this tense form is this: Because he knows a lot of people, Snape has a lot of secrets.  

I love this! Rickman gives us yet other clues and facts:

  • Snape knows lots of people
  • Snape doesn't only know nice people
  • Snape has a lot of secrets
  • Snape apparently has a lot of secrets because of all those good and bad people he knows.

Doesn't that strike you as strange for someone as lonely as Snape? Rickman just admitted that he never had friends.  Yet Snape knows lots of people. I think this confirms Snape works in the background story, he does a lot in-between the lines of the books, and we only know snippets of it. We don't know how and when he was able to pull something off or not except in Book 6, but I consider the Spinner's End chapter as the 'official version Snape fed Voldemort' and I don't think much of it in terms of what really happened.  Snape reveals what he told the Dark Lord but not what he did with Dumbledore, ever! We only know that because of coincidences (like Hagrid when he walked by Snape and Dumbledore in Book 6) or because Dumbledore tells us himself (usually at the end of each book when he explains to Harry what really happened). But apart from the fact that James Potter and his gang were always fooling around, Snape never offers information about his secret activities for the Light. Snape keeps his secrets to himself, both bad and good!  And that is why I am not convinced when I hear Snape spill his inner most secrets and strategies to Bellatrix and Narcissa in the second chapter of Book 6. If we were to believe Snape worked for the good side, wouldn't Rowling focus on his good secret actions instead of feeding us his bad spying activities? I think so, very strongly so! And this interview helps me believe in it even more!

I put "good and bad people" in bold because I think this is interesting: there seems to be good people with whom Snape shares secrets! Not only bad people and I'm glad that, even though the French grammar was somewhat to be desired, we have a hint that other good people we don't know of because they are secrets have something to do with Snape in the story.

JK Rowling has not yet unveiled all of Snape's secrets. It's also this that is remarkable, that in the end we know so little about him.

No, really?! Ha ha ha! But it confirms that Rickman knows part of the Book 6 and/or 7 plot because this was done before the release of Book 6.  I'm sure he knows some secrets of Book 7 but he knows he's a dead man if he ever tells it before publication ; )

I love what he says, that it's remarkable that we know so little about him. Yes, if you don't analyze it like I do ; ) Just joking! I understand what he means and this is has been one of my main points throughout the years: why is this important character so underrated?!  It's all to do with our personal vision: Snape fans think differently just as Sirius fans do. I fear we would have a war on our shoulders were both Snape and Sirius fans to meet ; )

What I know after years of reading e-mails is that a lot of Snape fans love the mystery, they love the fact we don't know everything about him, that he lurks still in the background of the series, that he's not a high profile character for other Harry Potter fans.  It's actually what happened in Book 6: everyone was stunned that Snape killed Dumbledore after all!  Many thought the 'bad guy' role-playing of Snape was over with and that Rowling was just trying to lead us on another time but now most of the HP fans curse Snape's very papery existence! I still believe she's leading us on because she never revealed what Snape did for the Light but she was like an opened book on his dark activities! In the end, Rickman understands his character very well and I'm glad that he was able to say that what is great about him is the mystery.  

-Did some fans address you with loathsome remarks?

-[Alan] In fact, very little did.  What is splendid is that people in general adore Snape. He is sarcastic, stubborn, etc, etc. But he is also fascinating. I have a lot of fun impersonating him,

I wonder what he would say now that Book 6 is out?! Has he been called a murderer by some crazy fans?  I guess it's possible since he has had a couple loathsome remarks already.

I like his attitude towards Snape's popularity, it's so different from Rowling's!  He finds it nice that Snape has fans and he understands why he does! Wonderful!  He knows that he has flaws (sarcasm and stubbornness) but he still finds him fascinating! Wow!    


I take immense pleasure in playing someone so ambiguous.

Translation note: "jouissif" is a familiar/informal term in French that means: 'to provide a feeling of profound well-being, very pleasing'  However, the English term I used is not familiar or informal. The verb 'jouir' in its familiar sense is the act of having an orgasm and therefore by extension associated with acts (not only sexual) that procure immense pleasure. This is why I have translated it as 'immense pleasure' because I believe the magazine's translation from English to French is too literal. They must have looked it up in their dictionary and followed the dictionary word for word instead of finding a word that fitted the idea better. I'm pretty sure Rickman didn't use the familiar equivalent to jouissif in English, that is 'orgasmic'.  ; )

He takes immense pleasure to play someone as ambiguous as Snape, that's great!  But I'm sure he's not totally clueless about Snape's ambiguities. He must know enough to let him pull through the series without having to go back in one film and apologize because his act wasn't in accordance with the final movie! Dear God no!  He plays Snape as an ambiguous character both because he knows and doesn't know his secrets. That in itself is very fascinating!  

We never know what to expect nor do we know what he really thinks.

 We sure try! ; ) Ha ha! We try so hard, too, which means we'll be bound to hit the nail a couple of times and, of let's fantasize, what if we hit the nail right in! He he! It's possible, and anyone who knows about the Improbability Drive will agree (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio shows).

So Rickman admits we don't know what to expect of him. True though I think we cracked it up pretty well up to now. I haven't had to go back a lot to change my hypothesis after all but of course HP fans don't spend as much time on Snape as we do ^o^ And now that Book 6 is out, this statement is even more true than ever before because the whole HP fanworld is awaiting with God-like patience to know whether Snape is good or bad. My opinion on the subject has already been cleared but I don't know all the details yet.  If one book were written from Snape's point of view however (I know, fat chance!) it would be so much easier for us.

He also says we don't know what he thinks all the time. Yes, that's one of the reasons I do analysis, to bring out those possibilities. That's what I love best: spread all the possibilities in front of me and sort them out one by one. And as dear Sherlock Holmes said, once there is but one left, no matter how unlikely this answer may be, it's got to be the right one!

I don't even know if Dumbledore knows him that well. Only JK Rowling holds the answer!

He doesn't know if Dumbledore knows how Snape thinks and what to expect out of him. So to me this is a clue that Rickman was not told of the reason Dumbledore trusts Snape or else he would never have said anything about it.  Only Rowling knows that reason that binds Snape to Dumbledore. So in the end, it's not essential for Rickman to play Snape. Very important point. Maybe he was given pointers about Snape's childhood and told to play the 'ambiguous' because he cannot know Snape's true loyalties. However, this brings me back to that other video interview I saw a while ago but which I had forgotten until last week.   It's very short:

[Interviewer] You're character is written as not being such a nice guy, but yet you are becoming so popular with the fans, that they love you, they write websites just about your character [Lady Claudia says: Yoohoo! She told Alan Rickman about us! That's about the closest I've been to him in my life ; ) ], what do you think about that?

[Alan Rickman] Well I mean, he's a complicated person and there's clearly a past that's getting worked out through the films. And you have to keep wondering, how come it is that he's saving their lives all the time. Especially in this one.

So here are the facts Rickman is divulging about Snape and also the reasons why his character is loved so much:
-Snape is complicated
-His past is being worked out through the films
-We have to ask ourselves why he saved people all the time (I assume he means Harry, Ron and Hermione, but we can also consider the other inhabitants of Hogwarts whom depend on Snape's actions to not be harmed)

Conclusion: Snape knows that we must keep wondering about the reasons why he saves everyone all the time, as in not giving up! I think we all got the message over here ; ) I think it's such an important statement he makes here and to come back to what I wanted to say above, this is my one proof that Alan Rickman does know Snape's loyalties or he knows that Snape is saving them now just because he feels like it but he will end up evil and killing them all in the end. Ha ha! Nah! I think it proves that he knows Snape is not a bad guy after all. He's complicated and we should try to know why.  Mr. Rickman, I think I've taken your message to the left level already! ^_^ Sure, Rowling can decide to make him evil in the end, but she would then have HUGE loopholes to fill! I do not advise it.

-The shooting of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has recently ended. What are your projects?

-[Alan] I'm working on the film The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I incarnate the voice of android Marvin in this totally crazy futuristic comedy.  Warwick Davies, the actor of professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter series, plays the role of Marvin. It stays in the family [laughs].

Oh ! How fun! Do you know about the movie? I watched it before I was able to listen to the radio show, which my dear friend Afictionado bought me this month.  I have watched it again two days ago knowing the first phase and it was so much better!  But I understand why many people felt it wasn't as good because of the hero's change of personality. They changed the hero's personality in the movie, made him into one of those modern 'good guy who doesn't have the guts but works at it during the movie and in the end he succeeds because he builds up the courage to face terrible ordeals, etc, etc'.  This was a huge mistake I believe because Arthur Dent wasn't like that in the radio show. But if you can ignore that, as I can, the movie is great to see before and after listening to the radio show.  The ironic lines and concepts are just too good to be missed if you're into this sort of things.