Maggie Smith Biography
Born: December 28, 1934
DAME MAGGIE SMITH
Birth Name: Margaret Natalie Smith
Date of Birth: December 28, 1934
Stage and screen actress Maggie Smith was born in Essex, England, but moved with her family, including twin older brothers, to Oxford when she was five. She attended Oxford Playhouse School after leaving high school at age 16. The experience led her to become assistant stage manager as well as an actor at the playhouse. She later acted for the Oxford University Dramatic Society and participated in the Edinburgh Theatre Festival.
By 1959, she made her Broadway debut in the play New Faces '56. During the early '60s she joined the Old Vic Company and Olivier's Royal National Theatre Company as a charter member.
The vast experience on stage was a natural springboard to film and she made that leap in the early '50s in Nowhere to Go. American viewers were then treated in 1963 to her breakthrough-supporting role as a love-starved secretary in The V.I.P.s. By 1965 she earned her first Oscar nomination for a supporting role in Othello, but the golden statuette would elude her until 1969 when she won it for Best Actress, for her role as an eccentric schoolmistress in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She won her second Academy Award almost a decade later for her performance in the comedy, California Suite (1978), after spending a few years on the Stratford Festival stage in Canada.
Never really letting go of her stage roots, Smith spent the late '80s and early '90s re-conquering the London and Broadway stages in Lettice and Lovage, written for her by Peter Shaffer. In 1989 Smith was knighted by the British Crown as a token of appreciation and respect for her prodigious dramatic accomplishments. Back in film she also contributed dour turns as the Mother Superior in the immensely popular comedy Sister Act (1992), the aged Wendy in the Peter Pan update, Hook (1991), the intimidating housekeeper of The Secret Garden (1993), and appeared in the all-star film version of Richard III as the Duchess of York in 1995.
Throughout her career, Smith has earned six Oscar nominations (winning two), 16 BAFTA nominations (winning five) and seven Golden Globes (winning two). In 2003 she won an Emmy award for her lead performance in the TV movie My House in Umbria. She married fellow actor Robert Stephens in 1967 and had two children with him: Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens, now both actors. In 1975 she entered her second marriage to writer Beverley Cross, who remained her husband until his death in 1998.
In all of the Harry Potter movies, she played the key role of Professor Minerva McGonagall. She was also seen in the comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) and the drama Quartet (2013). This latter role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. She shined on the small screen as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham in the highly popular period drama series Downtown Abbey, which ran for six seasons between 2010 and 2015. For her work on the Julian Fellowes-created show, she won a Golden Globe and picked up three Emmys. She reprised the role when a sequel was written for the big screen, simply titled Downtown Abbey (2019).
On the big screen, she has also played the lead role in My Old Lady (2014) opposite Kevin Kline, reprised the part of Muriel Donnelly in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) and played the lead character in The Lady in the Van (2015), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination.