Maggie Smith

Dame Margaret Natalie "Maggie" Smith, CH, DBE (born 28 December 1934) is an English actress. She made her stage debut in 1952 and has had an extensive, varied career in stage, film and television spanning over sixty years. Smith has appeared in over 50 films and is one of Britain's most recognisable actresses. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1990 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, and Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

Smith began her career on stage at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952 and made her Broadway debut in New Faces of '56. For her work on the London stage, she has won a record five Best Actress Evening Standard Awards: for The Private Ear and The Public Eye (1962), Hedda Gabler (1970), Virginia (1981), The Way of the World (1984) and Three Tall Women (1994). In New York, she received Tony Award nominations for Private Lives (1975), Night and Day (1979) and Lettice and Lovage (1990). For the latter, she won the 1990 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Other stage roles include Stratford Shakespeare Festival productions of Antony And Cleopatra (1976) and Macbeth (1978), and West End productions of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance (1997) and David Hare's The Breath of Life (2002), both at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

On screen, she first drew praise for the crime film Nowhere to Go (1958), for which she received her first BAFTA Award nomination. Her 1965 film role as Desdemona, in William Shakespeare's Othello, earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe nomination. Since then Smith has worked consistently in film, television and stage.

Smith has won two Academy Awards, winning Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and Best Supporting Actress for California Suite (1978) opposite Michael Caine. She is one of only six actresses to win the Academy Award in both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. A six-time nominee, her other Academy Award nominations were for Travels with My Aunt (1972), A Room with a View (1986), and Gosford Park (2001). She has also won a record four Best Actress BAFTA Awards: for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, A Private Function (1984), A Room with a View and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987). She would add a fifth competitive BAFTA for the 1999 film Tea with Mussolini, this time as Best Supporting Actress.

Other notable films include Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973), Death on the Nile (1978), Clash of the Titans (1981), Evil Under the Sun (1982), Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), The First Wives Club (1996), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the highly successful Harry Potter film series (2001–2011). She currently stars as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, on Downton Abbey, for which she has won a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild awards and two consecutive Emmy awards. She previously won an Emmy for the 2003 TV film My House in Umbria.

As well as her numerous competitive awards for acting in theatre, film and television, including two Academy Awards, five BAFTA Awards, three Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, four Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Tony Award, Smith has also received several honorary awards, including two more BAFTAs, the Special Award in 1993 and the BAFTA Fellowship in 1996. She also received the Honorary Olivier Award in 2011. Smith is one of the few actresses to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting. In September 2012, she was awarded the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Legacy Award, which she accepted from Christopher Plummer, who presented it to her in a ceremony at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada.

    Early life

    Smith was born in Romford, Essex, but moved with her family to Oxford when she was four years old. She is the daughter of Nathaniel Smith, a Newcastle-born public health pathologist who worked at Oxford University, and Margaret (née Hutton), a Glasgow-born secretary.

    As a child, her parents used to tell Smith the romantic story of how they had met on the train from Glasgow to London via Newcastle. She has older twin brothers, Alistair and Ian, who went to architecture school. She attended Oxford High School until age sixteen, when she left to study acting at the Oxford Playhouse.


    In 1952, aged 17, under the auspices of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, Smith began her career as Viola in Twelfth Night at the Oxford Playhouse. In 1954, she appeared in the television programme Oxford Accents produced by Ned Sherrin. She appeared in her first film in 1956, in an uncredited role in Child in the House, and made her Broadway debut the same year playing several roles in the review New Faces of '56, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre from June to December 1956. In 1957, she starred opposite Kenneth Williams in the musical comedy Share My Lettuce, written by Bamber Gascoigne. In 1958, she received the first of her 17 BAFTA Film and TV nominations for her role in the film Nowhere to Go.

    In 1962, Smith won the first of a record five Best Actress Evening Standard Awards for her roles in Peter Shaffer's plays The Private Ear and The Public Eye, again opposite Kenneth Williams. She became a fixture at the Royal National Theatre in the 1960s, most notably for playing Desdemona in Othello opposite Laurence Olivier and earning her first Oscar nomination for her performance in the 1965 film version. She appeared opposite Olivier in Ibsen's The Master Builder and played comedic roles in The Recruiting Officer and Much Ado About Nothing. Her other films at this time included Go to Blazes (1962), The V.I.P.s (1963), The Pumpkin Eater (1964), Hot Millions (1968) and Oh! What A Lovely War (1969).

    Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the title role of the 1969 film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Vanessa Redgrave had originated the role on stage in London and Zoe Caldwell won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, when she played the role in New York. The role also won Smith her first BAFTA Award. In 1970, she played the title role in Ingmar Bergman's London production of the Ibsen play Hedda Gabler, winning her second Evening Standard award for Best Actress. She received her third Academy Award nomination for the 1972 film Travels with My Aunt. She also appeared in the film Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973). In the mid 1970s, she made several guest appearances on The Carol Burnett Show.

    From 1976 to 1980, she appeared in numerous productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, to acclaim, her roles included Queen Elizabeth in Richard III, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Virginia Woolf in Virginia, and opposite Brian Bedford in the Noël Coward comedy Private Lives. Also during this time, she starred on Broadway in Private Lives in 1975 and Night and Day in 1979, receiving Tony Award nominations for both. Smith received the 1978 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Diana Barrie in California Suite. For this role, she also won her first Golden Globe Award. Afterward, upon hearing that Michael Palin was about to embark on the film The Missionary (1982) with Smith, her co-star Michael Caine is supposed to have humorously telephoned Palin, warning him that she would steal the film. Her other films at this time include Murder by Death (1976) and Death on the Nile (1978).

    In 1981, Smith played the goddess Thetis in Clash of the Titans. For her role on television as Mrs Silly, she received the first of her four Best Actress BAFTA TV Award nominations. On stage, she won her third and fourth Evening Standard awards for Best actress, for Virginia in 1981 and The Way of the World in 1984. She won three more Best Actress BAFTA Awards for her roles as Joyce Chilvers in the 1984 black comedy A Private Function, Charlotte Bartlett in the 1986 Merchant Ivory production of A Room with a View and the title role in the 1987 film The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. For A Room With a View, she also received her fifth Academy Award nomination and won her second Golden Globe Award. In 1987, she starred in A Bed Among the Lentils, part of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads series, receiving a second BAFTA TV nomination. She starred in the 1987 London production of Lettice and Lovage alongside Margaret Tyzack, receiving an Olivier Award nomination and reprised the role in 1990, when it transferred to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. The play was written specifically for her by the playwright Peter Shaffer.

    In the 1990s, Smith appeared as Wendy Darling in the 1991 hit movie Hook, and also appeared in the hit comedy films Sister Act in 1992 and The First Wives Club in 1996. She also received a third BAFTA TV nomination for the 1992 TV film Memento Mori and her first Emmy nomination for her role in the 1993 TV film Suddenly, Last Summer. She won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for the 1999 film Tea with Mussolini, in which she played Lady Hester. She also appeared in the films Hook (1991), The Secret Garden (1993), Richard III (1995) and Washington Square (1997). Her 1990s stage roles included Three Tall Women in 1994, which won her a fifth Evening Standard award, Claire in A Delicate Balance opposite Eileen Atkins in 1997 and The Lady in the Van in 1999.

    Due to the international success of the Harry Potter movies, she is now widely known for playing Professor Minerva McGonagall, opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the title role. She has appeared in seven of the eight films in the series from 2001 to 2011. She and Radcliffe had worked together previously in the 1999 BBC television adaptation of David Copperfield, in which she played Betsey Trotwood and received a BAFTA TV Award nomination. She received her sixth Academy Award nomination for the 2001 film Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman and won her first Emmy Award for the 2003 TV film My House in Umbria. On stage, she starred as Madeleine Palmer opposite Judi Dench in the David Hare play The Breath of Life in 2002, toured Australia in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads in 2004 and starred in The Lady From Dubuque in 2007.

    Maggie Smith at Kensington Garden in 2008

    Since 2010, she has appeared as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the British period drama Downton Abbey. This role has won her a Golden Globe Award and two Emmy Awards. In 2014, the role also won her a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2012, she played Muriel in the British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and starred as Jean Horton in Quartet, based on Ronald Harwood's play, directed by actor Dustin Hoffman.

    In a March 2015 interview with Joe Utichi in The Sunday Times, Smith announced that the sixth season of Downton Abbey would be her last. On 30 October 2015, Smith appeared on BBC's The Graham Norton Show, her first appearance on a chat show in 42 years.

    Personal life


    Smith has been married twice. She married actor Robert Stephens on 29 June 1967 at Greenwich Register Office, ten days after the birth of their first child. The couple had two sons, actors Chris Larkin (born 1967) and Toby Stephens (born 1969), and divorced on 6 May 1974. Maggie Smith has five grandchildren.

    She married playwright Beverley Cross on 23 August 1975 at the Guildford Register Office; he died on 20 March 1998. When asked if she was lonely, she replied, "[on Cross' death] I don't know. It seems a bit pointless. Going on one's own and not having someone to share it with."


    In January 1988, she was diagnosed with Graves' disease, for which she underwent radiotherapy and optical surgery.

    In 2007, the Sunday Telegraph disclosed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was subsequently reported to have made a full recovery.

    Charity work

    In September 2011, she offered her support for raising the $4.6 million needed to help rebuild the Court Theatre in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the earthquake in 2011 which caused severe damage to the area. In July 2012, she became a patron of the International Glaucoma Association, hoping to support the organisation and raise the profile of glaucoma. On 27 November 2012, she contributed a drawing of her own hand to the 2012 Celebrity Paw Auction, to raise funds for Cats Protection.

    Awards and nominations

    Smith's handprints in Leicester Square in West End of London.

    Smith was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1970, and was raised to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1990 New Year Honours. She was made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) for services to drama in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours. In 1971, Smith was conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by University of St Andrews. In 1986, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Bath. In 1995, Smith received an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from the University of Cambridge. She was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the Hamburg Alfred Toepfer Foundation in 1991. Smith was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of her outstanding contribution to film culture in 1992. She was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994. On 9 February 2014 she was inducted into the Actors Hall of Fame. Smith has a star on the London Avenue of Stars. On 10 April 1999 Smith received the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (The Will Award) presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. in recognition of her significant contribution to classical theatre in America. On 10 September 2012 she was honoured with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Legacy Award. She accepted the award, presented to her by Christopher Plummer, in a star-studded ceremony at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.


    Year Title Role Notes
    1956 Child in the House Party guest Uncredited
    1958 Nowhere to Go Bridget Howard
    1962 Go to Blazes Chantal
    1963 V.I.P.s, TheThe V.I.P.s Miss Mead Also known as Hotel International
    1964 Pumpkin Eater, TheThe Pumpkin Eater Philpot
    1965 Othello Desdemona Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress
    Young Cassidy Nora
    1967 Honey Pot, TheThe Honey Pot Sarah Watkins
    1968 Hot Millions Patty Terwilliger Smith
    1969 Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, TheThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Jean Brodie Academy Award for Best Actress
    Oh! What a Lovely War Music Hall Star
    1972 Travels with My Aunt Aunt Augusta Bertram Academy Award nomination for Best Actress
    1973 Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing Lila Fisher
    1976 Murder by Death Dora Charleston
    1978 Death on the Nile Miss Bowers
    California Suite Diana Barrie Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
    1981 Quartet Lois Heidler
    Clash of the Titans Thetis
    1982 Evil Under the Sun Daphne Castle
    Missionary, TheThe Missionary Lady Isabel Ames
    1983 Better Late Than Never Miss Anderson
    1984 Private Function, AA Private Function Joyce Chilvers
    Lily in Love Lily Wynn
    1985 Room with a View, AA Room with a View Charlotte Bartlett Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress
    1987 Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, TheThe Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Judith Hearne
    1990 Romeo.Juliet Rosaline Voice only
    1991 Hook Wendy Darling
    1992 Sister Act Reverend Mother
    1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
    Secret Garden, TheThe Secret Garden Mrs. Medlock
    1995 Richard III Duchess of York
    1996 First Wives Club, TheThe First Wives Club Gunilla Garson Goldberg
    1997 Washington Square Aunt Lavinia Penniman
    1999 Curtain Call Lily Marlowe Also known as It All Came True
    Last September, TheThe Last September Lady Myra Naylor
    Tea with Mussolini Lady Hester Random
    2001 Gosford Park Constance Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Minerva McGonagall Also known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Caro Eliza Bennett
    2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Minerva McGonagall
    Ladies in Lavender Janet Widdington
    2005 Keeping Mum Grace Hawkins
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Minerva McGonagall
    2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    Becoming Jane Lady Gresham
    2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Minerva McGonagall
    From Time to Time Linnet Oldknow
    2010 Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Mrs. Agatha Docherty Also known as Nanny McPhee Returns
    2011 Gnomeo & Juliet Lady Bluebury Voice only
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 Minerva McGonagall
    2012 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Muriel Donnelly
    Quartet Jean Horton
    2014 My Old Lady Mathilde Girard
    2015 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Muriel Donnelly
    The Lady in the Van Miss Shepherd


    Year Title Role Notes
    1955 BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Series (episode: "The Makepeace Story #3: Family Business")
    1956 Theatre Royal Paula Benson Also known as Lilli Palmer Theatre, TV series (episode: "Death Under the City")
    1957 The Adventures of Aggie Fiona Frobisher-Smith Series (episode: "Cobalt Blue")
    Kraft Television Theatre Series (episode: "Night of the Plague")
    ITV Play of the Week Various roles Series (5 episodes: 1957–1960)
    1958 Chelsea at Nine Series (1 episode)
    Armchair Theatre Julie, The Girl, Anna Carnot Series (3 episodes: 1958–1960)
    1959 ITV Television Playhouse Elaine Series (2 episodes)
    1966 ITV Play of the Week Victoria Series (episode: "Home and Beauty")
    1967 Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice
    1968 Man and Superman Ann Whitefield Video-taped (Play of the Month, BBC)
    The Seagull Irina Arkadina
    ITV Playhouse Mrs. Wislack Series (episode: "On Approval")
    1972 The Merchant of Venice Portia Video-taped (Play of the Month, BBC)
    The Millionairess Epifania
    1983 All for Love Mrs Silly Series (episode: "Mrs Silly")
    1988 Talking Heads Susan Series (episode: "A Bed Among the Lentils")
    1992 Screen Two Mrs. Mabel Pettigrew Series (episode: "Memento Mori")
    1993 Great Performances Violet Venable Series (episode: "Suddenly, Last Summer")
    1999 All the King's Men Queen Alexandra
    David Copperfield Betsey Trotwood
    2003 My House in Umbria Emily Delahunty
    2007 Capturing Mary Mary Gilbert
    2010–2015 Downton Abbey Violet Crawley Series (43 episodes)
    2013 National Theatre Live Herself/Mrs. Sullen Series (episode: "50 Years on Stage")


    See also

    • List of Academy Award records
    • List of actors with two or more Academy Awards in acting categories
    • List of Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire
    • Tale Spinners for Children
    • University College Players


    Further reading

    External links