Daniel Radcliffe’s age had barely hit double-digits when he won his life-changing role in the big-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s massively popular Harry Potter book series. So it’s fully fathomable that in the early days of the film franchise the 11-year-old would be terrified of Alan Rickman, the late Die Hard baddie cast as Harry’s seemingly sinister antagonist, Severus Snape.
“He was very intimidating at first, when you first met him on set,” Radcliffe told Yahoo Movies this week while promoting his own villainous turn in the upcoming sequel Now You See Me 2. “I remember being really scared of him when I was younger. And then you suddenly realize when you’re like 13 or 14 that he’s not scary, really. He’s just got a really deep, really intimidating voice. And he’s actually really funny and self-deprecating and vulnerable and all this stuff that you don’t expect.”
Radcliffe issued a touching remembrance of Rickman when the actor died of cancer in January at age 69, calling his co-star through eight Harry Potter movies “undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with” and “one of the loyalest and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry.”
Radcliffe, 26, and now a young veteran of films like Horns, Trainwreck, and this year’s buzzy Sundance premiere Swiss Army Man, elaborated to Yahoo Movies about how Rickman helped shape him as an actor. “The thing you realized when you went to Alan’s memorial was just how nurturing he was of any younger actor,” he recalls. “He’d really look out for them and encourage them.
"He was just incredibly good with advice, and listening,” Radcliffe continued. “And just watching him on set, and his focus. It was amazing. I couldn’t have wished for a better villain to work opposite for years. He was really just extraordinary.”
Radcliffe referred to Rickman’s Snape as a villain, but he also recognized there’s merit to the argument that the icy and sarcastic Slytherin professor, who was often cruel to Harry and whose true intentions were shrouded in ambiguity until the final book, was the real hero of the Harry Potter series.
“I think that’s absolutely very valid,” Radcliffe said. “That’s the one thing about that character… heroes can be dislikable. He doesn’t like Harry, he never did. But I absolutely think he is a real hero. And it’s this sort of bravery you don’t see very often because it’s this bravery [where he] doesn’t want any credit. So yeah, I would go along with that.”
Now You See Me 2 opens June 10. Watch the trailer: