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Maggie Smith - Biography

The actress is known for her roles in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey

dame maggie smith
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Dame Maggie Smith is a household name thanks to her illustrious acting career which spans almost seven decades. A multi-award-winning actress, Maggie is known for playing various iconic characters, including Harry Potter's Professor McGonagall and Downton Abbey's Violet Crawley.

Maggie Smith's early life

Margaret Natalie Smith was born in Essex, England, on December 28, 1934. Maggie found her passion for the craft at a young age and when she was 16 enrolled at the Oxford Playhouse School of Theatre. Within five years she had headed for New York to work on a Broadway musical revue. "I don't know why," she said of the experience in 2002. "I can't sing, I can't dance. I was kind of dopey." By the age of 22 she was back in London, and notched up her first West End performance in the 1957 production Share My Lettuce.

Maggie Smith's rise to fame 

Maggie made her big screen debut in the 1950s, and went on to deliver notable performances in a number of movies, winning Oscars for her role as an eccentric teacher in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and California Suite. Her Gosford Park nomination was her sixth from the Academy, giving her a chance to add to the many accolades including six BAFTAs, three Golden Globes and a Tony Award she has on her mantelpiece.

In 1990, Maggie was honoured by the Queen with an appointment as Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, having been given a CBE in 1970. Maggie once summed up her career in a single sentence: "One went to school, one wanted to act, one started to act, and one's still acting." And though she's starred on screen in everything from costume dramas (A Room With A View) to mainstream flicks (Sister Act), the Harry Potter star says her heart really lies with theatre, a medium she says is "much more the real world". "Whatever's happening in your life, you've got three hours where you're completely organised and absorbed and you know what you're doing," she says.

Maggie Smith's most notable roles 

Maggie has an impressive list of screen credits and has played countless memorable characters. She rose to popular fame, however, when she was cast as Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film series.

She is also known for her roles in Downton Abbey, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Ladies in Lavendar.

Maggie Smith's family life

The acclaimed actress has been married twice. She was involved with playwright Beverley Cross, but broke off the relationship after she fell for stage actor Robert Stephens in the early Sixties. 

Maggie went on to marry Robert in 1967, and had two sons, actors Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin, but the union ended after seven years. By 1975, she had returned to Beverley and married him, nearly 25 years after they first met. "I'm remarkably fortunate," she says. "When you meet again someone you should have married in the first place, it's like a script. That kind of luck is too good to be true." 

She was with her second husband until his death in 1998, aged 66. 

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