How Chris Columbus Convinced A Reluctant Alan Rickman To Star In Harry Potter

Chris Columbus is conductor of the nostalgia train, but considering this year marks the 20th anniversary of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," we'll let it slide. In a recent interview with the AV Club, Columbus let loose and told all sorts of behind the scenes stories about the making of the first film. If you're a potterhead, it has to be an especially exciting time, but even if you're only casually interested in what's going on, it is fascinating to see how an incredibly successful and formative movie gets made. And clearly, Columbus is down to dish all of the details.

One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of his AV Club chat involves the late, great Alan Rickman, who fully embodied the role of Severus Snape, Hogwarts' cruel potions master. According to Columbus, Rickman was apprehensive about taking the role and was worried about being typecast as a go-to villain. As Columbus explains:

"I remember [producer] David Heyman and myself had to do the British actor's dinner tour for quite some time. We went out to dinner with Richard Harris to convince him, and Maggie Smith to convince her. Alan Rickman was the same, and he was reluctant because he didn't want to be typecast as a villain, particularly after Die Hard, and I guess Robin Hood [Prince Of Thieves]."

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We all know how this story ends, Rickman obviously took on the role and became a cornerstone of the "Harry Potter" film franchise, but apparently Columbus alone didn't seal the deal. Rickman was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at Snape's character arc, and it changed the way he perceived (and subsequently played) the role. As Columbus tells it:

"We convinced him to do it, and then J.K. Rowling took him out to dinner and told him something about what was going to happen to Snape throughout the series and in the seventh book. So when we would be on set, he would do these tiny little idiosyncrasies with his performance, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I'd walk up to him afterwards and say, 'What was that?' He would say, 'Oh, you'll know when you read the seventh book.' It was like, 'Well, yeah, but that doesn't help me now. I'm directing the first movie.'"

The "Harry Potter" film series (and especially the first movie) has been talked, and written about, relentlessly, but we can't deny how fun it is to learn these little tidbits. If Columbus's goal here is to get me in the mood to re-watch the first movie, he's winning. Now all I want to do is settle down on the couch with some hot chocolate and see if I can pick up on Rickman's little cues. And while Columbus might have been annoyed with them at the time, everything clearly worked out in the end. "Once I read the seventh book, though," says the director, "I thought, "Oh, that was brilliant, his choice."