Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: December 28, 1934

Age: 89 years old

Birth Place: Ilford, Essex, England, UK

Spouses: Robert Stephens

Children: Chris Larkin, Toby Stephens

One of the most revered actresses on both sides of the Atlantic, Maggie Smith created a gallery of indelible characters on stage and screen, which ran the gamut from repressed spinsters to comical eccentrics. Smith quickly became an actress of note with performances in several Shakespeare plays before making an auspicious feature debut in "Nowhere to Go" (1959), before stealing the show in "The VIPs" (1963) and gaining international acclaim for her Oscar-winning performance in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969). While making her name in dramatic roles, Smith proved equally adept at comedy, particularly with a standout turn as a sophisticated sleuth among an all-star cast in "Murder by Death" (1976). She earned another Academy Award for her brilliant portrayal of a crumbling actress in "California Suite" (1978) before transitioning to a repressed spinster in "A Room with a View" (1986). Though she appeared in a supporting capacity in broad Hollywood movies like "Hook" (1991) and "Sister Act" (1992), Smith found comfort on Broadway and London stages while continuing to earn acclaim for smaller films like "Tea with Mussolini" (1998) and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" (2001). Smith reached her widest audience with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) and its numerous sequels, and earned critical acclaim as Dowager Countess of Grantham on the wildly popular series "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS, 2010-16), allowing her the opportunity to impress a whole new generation as she continued to maintain her reputation as one of the greatest actresses of all time.

Born on Dec. 28, 1934 in Ilford, Essex, England, Smith was raised by her father, Nathaniel, a pathologist at Oxford University, and her mother, Margaret. From the time she was eight years old, Smith was determined to become an actress. At age 17, Smith was playing Viola in a production of "Twelfth Night" (1952) and the Oxford Playhouse School, where she also served as an assistant stage manager while studying her craft. Four years later, Smith was singing and dancing on Broadway in the sketch revue "New Faces of '56" (1956), while making her uncredited film debut as a party guest in "Child in the House" (1956). Following her London stage debut in "Save My Lettuce" (1957), Smith made her official film debut in the crime drama, "Nowhere to Go" (1959), which earned her a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Newcomer. Back to the stage once again, she joined The Old Vic Theatre and performed in productions of "As You Like It" (1959) and "Richard II" (1959) before being cast opposite Laurence Olivier for a production of "Rhinoceros."

By 1962, Smith was earning her first accolades in the Peter Shaffer double bill "The Private Ear" and "The Public Eye." The following year, she earned plaudits for her first major film role, playing a love-starved secretary secretly attracted to her boss in "The VIPs" (1963); her stellar performance led co-star Richard Burton to half-jokingly accuse her of "grand larceny." Also in 1963, Olivier invited her to become a charter member of the National Theatre and cast her as his Desdemona in "Othello," which she recreated on screen in the 1965 film version, earning her first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Meanwhile, the 1960s were a heady time for Smith. In addition to building her impressive resume with acclaimed roles, she embarked on a torrid love affair with the still-married actor, Robert Stephens, causing a minor scandal when she gave birth to their first child in June 1967. Following their marriage that same year, she and Stephens ironically co-starred as illicit lovers in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969); critics and audiences were captivated by her performance as a neurotic and fascistic Scottish schoolteacher, which was impressive enough to earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Having taken time out to give birth to a second son in 1969, Smith was back at the top of her game in 1972, headlining a London revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" and starring as the oddball relative sojourning across Europe in "Travels With My Aunt," a performance that netted her another Best Actress Oscar nomination. Following the collapse of her union with Stephens due to her success and his alcoholism, she embarked on a second marriage to playwright and old beau Beverley Cross, while turning in quality performances in films like "Murder by Death" (1976), an all-star whodunit spoof in which she played the cultured wife of Dick Charleston (David Niven). Two years later, she delivered an acclaimed performance in the Agatha Christie adaptation of "Death on the Nile" (1978), before Neil Simon provided her with one of her richest roles in "California Suite" (1978). Smith played Diana Barrie, an insecure British actress coping with a crumbling marriage to her Hollywood husband (Michael Caine) and the spotlight glare brought on by an Academy Award nomination. Although her onscreen character may have lost the coveted statue, Smith took home the Oscar in real life for her nuanced portrayal.

In 1979, Smith returned to Broadway to recreate her London success in Tom Stoppard's play "Night and Day," earning herself a deserved Tony Award nomination. After a supporting part in Peter Ustinov's mildly entertaining "Evil Under the Sun" (1982), Smith proved to be a hilarious foil for Michael Palin in two comedies: "The Missionary" (1982) and "A Private Function" (1984). She excelled as the repressed chaperone who lives vicariously through her young charge (Helena Bonham Carter) in the Merchant Ivory production of "A Room with a View" (1986), in which she displayed her natural ability for delivering witty dialogue with irresistible aplomb and expert timing. Her performance earned Smith both a BAFTA Award and Golden Globe, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. As the decade waned, she made a rare, but indelible small screen appearance delivering an Alan Bennett monologue in "Bed Among the Lentils," which was shown on the U.S. "Masterpiece Theatre" (PBS) series. She also had one of her best dramatic roles as the repressed spinster who blossoms when she finds romance with a con man (Bob Hoskins) in the feature, "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne" (1987).

Smith was honored by playwright Peter Shaffer when he tailored his stage comedy "Lettice and Lovage" (1988) specifically for the actress; it proved to be a triumph in both London and New York, and added a Tony Award to her growing trophy collection. In 1990, she was dubbed Dame Margaret Natalie Smith Cross - her full name at the time - by Queen Elizabeth II, after having been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1970. Meanwhile, Smith was lovely as the aged Wendy Darling in Steven Spielberg's misfire, "Hook" (1991), although playing a character much older than herself eventually led to typecasting. For much of the rest of the decade, her onscreen personae tended toward the dour elderly types, ranging from the tart Mother Superior in "Sister Act" (1992) and its sequel, to her Emmy-nominated turn as a Southern matriarch in the small screen remake of Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly, Last Summer" (PBS, 1993). After playing Layd Bracknell in a highly praised turn in the London stage revival of "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1993), Smith received a BAFTA Award nomination for her portrayal of the no-nonsense housekeeper Mrs. Medlock in "The Secret Garden" (1993).

Although she was enjoying a strong career as a character player in films, Smith kept returning to the stage, appearing in several high-profile, critically acclaimed performances, including in the London production of Edward Albee's award-winning "Three Tall Women" (1994) and as the Duchess of York in "Richard III" (1995), starring Ian McKellan. Following a London stage reprisal of her television role in "Bed Among the Lentils" (1996), she starred in the Albee-penned "A Delicate Balance" (1997), while earning praise for her turn as the meddlesome aunt in the period romantic drama, "Washington Square" (1997). Heading back to the big screen, Smith was impressive as a grande dame in Italy whose misguided admiration for Benito Mussolini recalled Jean Brodie's admiration of Franco in "Tea with Mussolini" (1998); the film cast her opposite an equally impressive Dame Judi Dench. She earned another BAFTA Award; this time for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The following year, she was featured as Aunt Betsey in a retelling of "David Copperfield" (BBC, 1999), which netted another Emmy nod after the program aired stateside on PBS.

As the new millennium dawned, Smith brought a poignant sense of loss to her turn as a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in the elegiac "The Last September" (2000). Her next screen role as the stern, shape-shifting Professor Minerva McGonagle in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), exposed her to her widest audience to date while earning a legion of new young fans. But it was her turn as the indelible, acid-tongued Constance, Countess of Trentham, in Robert Altman's clever blend of country house murder mystery and sharp upstairs-downstairs satire, "Gosford Park" (2001), that gave the actress some of her biggest plaudits of her long career. Smith stood out among a massive all-star cast that included everyone from Helen Mirren, Clive Owen and Emily Watson to Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon and Stephen Fry. For her work, she earned numerous critical accolades, including nods at the BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes and Oscars. Meanwhile, she reprised Professor McGonagle for the sequels, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"(2002) and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004). After gracing the big screen as one of three bickering women (including Shirley Knight and Fionnula Flanagan) in "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002), Smith embarked on one of the most anticipated theatrical events of her career - an on-stage teaming with Judi Dench in David Hare's new play, "The Breath of Life" (2002), which was reprised on Broadway in 2003.

Smith next received an Emmy Award among other accolades for her role in the acclaimed small screen adaptation of William Trevor's novel, "My House in Umbria" (HBO, 2003), in which she played an English romance novel writer who invites fellow survivors of a terrorist bombing to join her at her Italian villa. Smith next starred in the British-made "Ladies in Lavender" (2004), a period drama in which she played a spinster living with her sister (Judi Dench) in an idyllic coastal town outside Cornwell. Meanwhile, she reprised Professor McGonagle in a more diminished capacity for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005), "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007) and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (2009). Smith did shine, however, as Rowan Atkinson's secretive housekeeper in "Keeping Mum" (2006) and opposite Anne Hathaway in the Jane Austen-inspired romantic drama, "Becoming Jane" (2007).

After co-starring alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal and Emma Thompson in the sequel "Nanny McPhee Returns" (2010), Smith earned an Emmy nomination for "Capturing Mary" (HBO, 2010), in which she played a once brilliant writer and critic whose life was destroyed by an evil social climber (David Williams) from her heady youth. Meanwhile, she earned Emmy Awards in 2011 and 2012 for her performance as the sharp-tongued Violet Crawley, the traditional and protective Dowager Countess of Grantham on the British period drama "Downton Abbey" (ITV, 2011). While trading pointed barbs with family and servants on the show, Smith continued making feature films, bringing imbalance to a foursome of opera singers in "Quartet" (2012) - for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy - and earning critical praise for her performance as a retired housekeeper suspicious of Asians in John Madden's ensemble comedy "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2012). Between series of "Downton Abbey," she next appeared on screen in "My Old Lady" (2014), a film written and directed by Israel Horovitz co-starring Kevin Kline and Kiristin Scott Thomas. Smith next appeared in the sequel "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2015). It was also announced in early 2015 that the upcoming season of "Downton Abbey" would be the show's last.

Credits

The Miracle ClubStream

Actor
Lily Fox
Movie
2023
66%

Downton Abbey: A New EraStream

Actor
Violet Grantham
Movie
2022
87%

A Boy Called ChristmasStream

Actor
Aunt Ruth
Movie
2021
84%

Downton AbbeyStream

Actor
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Movie
2019
84%

Sherlock Gnomes

Voice
Lady Blueberry
Movie
2018

Nothing Like a Dame

Self
Movie
2018

The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelStream

Actor
Muriel Donnelly
Movie
2015
66%

The Lady in the Van

Actor
Miss Shepherd
Movie
2015

My Old Lady

Actor
Mathilde Girard
Movie
2014

Live From the National Theatre: 50 Years On Stage

Actor
Show
2013

Dave Allen: God's Own Comedian

Guest
Show
2013

Quartet

Actor
Jean Horton
Movie
2012

Downton Abbey

Actor
Violet
Show
2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Stream

Actor
Minerva McGonagall
Movie
2011
96%

Gnomeo & Juliet

Voice
Lady Bluebury
Movie
2011

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelStream

Actor
Muriel Donnelly
Movie
2011
78%

Downton AbbeyStream

Actor
Violet Crawley
Series
2010
87%

Nanny McPhee ReturnsStream

Actor
Mrs. Docherty
Movie
2010
75%

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceStream

Actor
Minerva McGonagall
Movie
2009
84%

From Time to Time

Actor
Mrs. Oldknow
Movie
2009

The Graham Norton ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixStream

Actor
Minerva McGonagall
Movie
2007
78%

Becoming JaneStream

Actor
Lady Gresham
Movie
2007
58%

Capturing Mary

Actor
Mary Gilbert
Movie
2007

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

Keeping Mum

Actor
Grace Hawkins
Movie
2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireStream

Actor
Minerva McGonagall
Movie
2005
88%

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanStream

Actor
Professor McGonagall
Movie
2004
90%

Ladies in Lavender

Actor
Janet Widdington
Movie
2004

My House in Umbria

Actor
Movie
2003

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodStream

Actor
Caro
Movie
2002
44%

Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsStream

Actor
Professor Minerva McGonagall
Movie
2002
82%

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneStream

Actor
Professor McGonagall
Movie
2001
81%

Gosford ParkStream

Actor
Constance, Countess of Trentham
Movie
2001
87%

David Copperfield

Actor
Show
2000

David Copperfield

Actor
Betsey Trotwood
Show
2000

David CopperfieldStream

Actor
Miniseries
1999

Tea With Mussolini

Actor
Lady Hester Random
Movie
1999

The Last September

Actor
Lady Myra
Movie
1999

All the King's Men

Actor
Queen Alexandra
Movie
1999

Curtain Call

Actor
Lily Marlowe
Movie
1998

Washington Square

Actor
Aunt Lavinia Penniman
Movie
1997

First Wives ClubStream

Actor
Gunilla Garson Goldberg
Movie
1996
50%

Richard IIIStream

Actor
Duchess of York
Movie
1995
96%

Ajeno a Este Mundo

Actor
Movie
1993

The Secret GardenStream

Actor
Mrs. Medlock
Movie
1993
88%

Sister Act 2: Back in the HabitStream

Actor
Mother Superior
Movie
1993
18%

Memento Mori

Actor
Mrs. Mabel Pettigrew
Movie
1992

Sister ActStream

Actor
Mother Superior
Movie
1992
75%

Suddenly, Last Summer

Actor
Violet Venable
Movie
1992

HookStream

Actor
Granny Wendy/Middle-Aged Wendy
Movie
1991
29%

Talking Heads

Actor
Vicar's Wife
Show
1988

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

Actor
Judith Hearne
Movie
1987

Un Cuarto Con Vista

Actor
Movie
1986

A Room with a ViewStream

Actor
Charlotte Bartlett, a chaperon
Movie
1986
100%

Screen Two

Actor
Mabel Pettigrew
Show
1985

Lily in Love

Actor
Lily Wynn
Movie
1985

A Private Function

Actor
Joyce Chilvers
Movie
1984

Porc royal

Actor
Movie
1984

The Missionary

Actor
Lady Isabel Ames
Movie
1982

Evil Under the SunStream

Actor
Daphne Castle
Movie
1982
92%

Better Late Than Never

Actor
Miss Anderson
Movie
1982

Clash of the TitansStream

Actor
Thetis
Movie
1981
64%

Quartet

Actor
Lois Heidler
Movie
1981

CBS News Sunday Morning

Guest
News
1979

Death on the NileStream

Actor
Miss Bowers
Movie
1978
78%

California Suite

Actor
Diana Barrie
Movie
1978

Murder by Death

Actor
Mrs. Dora Charleston
Movie
1976

Great PerformancesStream

Guest
Franchise
1972

Love, Pain And The Whole Damn Thing

Actor
Movie
1972

Love and Pain (and the Whole Damn Thing)

Actor
Lila Fisher
Movie
1972

Travels With My AuntStream

Actor
Aunt Augusta
Movie
1972
50%

Amor, Dolor y Todo el Resto

Actor
Movie
1972

Parkinson

Guest
Show
1971

Masterpiece

Actor
Franchise
1971

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Actor
Jean Brodie
Movie
1969
84%

Oh! What a Lovely War

Actor
Music Hall Star
Movie
1969

Les Plus belles années de Miss Jean Brodie

Actor
Movie
1969

60 MinutesStream

Guest
News
1968

Hot Millions

Actor
Patty Terwilliger Smith
Movie
1968

Chauds les Millions

Actor
Movie
1968

The Carol Burnett ShowStream

Guest
Variety Show
1967

The Honey Pot

Actor
Sarah Watkins
Movie
1967

Play of the Month

Actor
Portia
Show
1965

El Sonador Rebelde

Actor
Movie
1965

El Joven Cassidy

Actor
Movie
1965

Othello

Actor
Desdemona
Movie
1965
83%

Young CassidyStream

Actor
Nora
Movie
1965

The Pumpkin EaterStream

Actor
Philpot
Movie
1964
67%

The V.I.P.sStream

Actor
Miss Mead
Movie
1963
0%

Go to Blazes

Actor
Chantal
Movie
1961

Nowhere to Go

Actor
Bridget Howard
Movie
1958

News aboutMaggie Smith