Dame Margaret Natalie “Maggie” Smith, CH, DBE born 28 December 1934, is an English actress. She has had an extensive, varied career on stage, film, and television, spanning over 66 years. Smith has appeared in over 50 films, and is one of Britain’s most recognizable actresses. A prominent figure in British culture for six decades, she was ma
de a Dameby Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 for services to the performing arts, and received the Companion of Honour from the Queen in 2014 for services to drama.
Smith began her career on stage as a student performing at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952, and made her professional debut on Broadway 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 (both 1962), Hedda Gabler (1970), Virginia (1981), The Way of the World (1984), and Three Tall Women (1994). She received Tony Award nominations for Private Lives (1975) and Night and Day (1979), before winning the 1990 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Lettice and Lovage. Other stage roles include Stratford Shakespeare Festival productions of Antony and Cleopatra (1976) and Macbeth (1978), and West End productions of A Delicate Balance (1997) and The Breath of Life (2002).
On screen, Smith first drew praise for the crime film Nowhere to Go (1958),
for which she received her first BAFTA Award nomination. She has won two Academy Awards, winning Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and Best Supporting Actress for California Suite (1978). She is one of only six actresses to have won in both categories. She has won a record four BAFTA Awards for Best Actress, including for A Private Function (1984) and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1988), a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for Tea With Mussolini (1999), and three Golden Globe Awards. A six-time Oscar nominee, her other nominations were for Othello (1965), Travels with My Aunt (1972), A Room with a View (1986), and Gosford Park (2001).
Smith played Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series (2001–2011). 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 Secret Garden (1993), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), and The Lady in the Van (2015). She won an Emmy Award in 2003 for My House in Umbria, to become one of the few actresses to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting, and starred as Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, on Downton Abbey (2010–2015), for which she won three Emmys, her first non-ensemble Screen Actors Guild Award, and her third Golden Globe. Her honorary awards include the BAFTA Special Award in 1993, the BAFTA Fellowship in 1996, and the Special Olivier Award in 2011. She received the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Legacy Award in 2012, and the Bodley Medal by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries in 2016.
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), Young Cassidy (1965), 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).
Smith married actor Robert Stephens on 29 June 1967 at Greenwich Register Office, ten days after the birth of their first child. They had two sons, actors Chris Larkin (born 1967) and Toby Stephens (born 1969), and were divorced on 6 April 1975. Smith married playwright Beverley Cross on 23 June 1975 at the Guildford Register Office, and they were married until his death on 20 March 1998. When asked in 2013 if she was lonely, she replied that “it seems a bit pointless, going on on one’s own, and not having someone to share it with”. Smith has five grandchildren.
In January 1988, Smith was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, for which she underwent radiotherapy and optical surgery.
In 2007, the Sunday Telegraph disclosed that Smith had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was subsequently reported to have made a full recovery.[