She has had an extensive, varied career in stage, film and television spanning over sixty years. She has appeared in over 50 films and is one of Britain's most recognizable and respected actors. In 1990, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the performing arts.
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 City, she received three Tony Award nominations, for Private Lives (1975), Night and Day (1979) and Lettice and Lovage (1990). For the latter, she won the Tony for Best Actress in a Play.
On screen, she first drew praise for the 1958 crime film Nowhere To Go, 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 (the first of her six) 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 and Best Supporting Actress for California Suite. She is one of only six actors to win the Academy Award in both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.
Other notable films include Travels with My Aunt (1972), Death on the Nile (1978), Evil Under the Sun (1982), A Private Function (1984), A Room with a View (1986), The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), Gosford Park (2001) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012). She appeared in such films as Clash of the Titans (1981), Hook (1991), both Sister Act films (1992-93), The First Wives Club (1996), and as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the highly successful Harry Potter film series (2001-2011). She starred 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 has won numerous awards for her acting in theatre, film and television; including seven BAFTA Awards (five competitive awards and two special awards including the BAFTA Fellowship in 1996), two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Tony Award, and an Honorary Olivier Award. Smith is one of the few actors 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.
She is the mother of actors Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin.
Maggie Smith on TV Tropes:
- The V.I.P.s (1963)
- Othello (1965)
- Young Cassidy (1965)
- Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
- Travels with My Aunt (1972)
- Murder by Death (1976)
- California Suite (1978)
- Death on the Nile (1978)
- Clash of the Titans (1981)
- Evil Under the Sun (1982)
- A Room with a View (1985)
- Hook (1991)
- Sister Act (1992)
- Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
- The Secret Garden (1993)
- Richard III (1995)
- The First Wives Club (1996)
- Gosford Park (2001)
- Seven of eight Harry Potter movies (2001-2011)(she does not appear in Deathly Hallows Part I)
- Keeping Mum (2005)
- Downton Abbey (TV series)(2010-2015)
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
- Quartet (2012)
- My Old Lady (2014)
Tropes associated with her work
- Creator Backlash: She was not subtle about her dislike of Downton Abbey, saying she's never watched it and is uncomfortable being mobbed by fans in public.
- Fake Scot:
- She puts on an upper class Edinburgh dialect to play Jean Brodie.
- A more standard Scottish accent for Minerva McGonagall. Uniquely her nationality wasn't revealed in the books (Jim Dale's audio books gave her a Scottish accent, whereas Stephen Fry's gave her an English one) - but Word of God later confirmed her to be Scottish.
- Funny Character, Boring Actor: Known for being a Deadpan Snarker on-screen, she's quite quiet and reserved off.
- Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: She got her start doing Shakespeare and other dramatic roles. In her older years, she carved out a niche as a Deadpan Snarker. Even if the works themselves weren't comedies, she usually provided comic relief."I tend to head for what's amusing because a lot of things aren't happy. But you can usually find a funny side to practically everything."
- Money, Dear Boy: She usually prefers stage work but films pay more. She joked that "Harry Potter is my pension."
- Odd Friendship: With the late Carry On alumni Kenneth Williams. They worked together many times during Smith's early televised acting years and were close. Kenneth called their friendship a knot that he didn't want to untie and talked fondly about her a lot in his diaries.
- Playing Against Type:
- Playing Gertrude: She wears ageing make-up at fifty-six to play Wendy in Hook at ninety-two. She does appear without make-up in one flashback, where her age matches Wendy's.
- Playing with Character Type: In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel she plays her usual snarky type - but this time as a working class cockney.
- Reclusive Artist: Hates being interviewed and rarely appears on talk shows. Her 2015 appearance on The Graham Norton Show was her first time doing a talk show in decades. As such she was quite alarmed when she started to get mobbed by fans after the popularity of Downton.
- Star-Making Role: With regards to film work, she was catapulted to stardom with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the subsequent Oscar nomination.
- Typecasting: In her later years, usually it's as mean snarky old ladies — sometimes upper class.
- What Could Have Been: She was the first choice for Jean Brodie when the stage version was produced. She was unavailable and Vanessa Redgrave played the role. When the film was greenlit, Vanessa was presumed to play Jean again. However she was then unavailable, and Maggie stepped in.