Dame Maggie Smith Discusses Career, Life After “Downton Abbey”

After being awarded the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress for her role as Mary Shepherd in The Lady in the Van, Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) was interviewed by the Evening Standard about her win. With her role as the Dowager Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey now behind her, Smith also reflected on a number of her previous roles.

The film adaptation The Lady in the Van was not the first time that Smith had played the role of Mary Shepherd; she also portrayed her in the 1999 West End play, also titled The Lady in the Van. About Shepherd, whom the Evening Standard describes as “a demanding and unsanitary itinerant woman who had been a concert pianist and a nun, moved her derelict van into [writer Alan] Bennett’s Camden driveway in 1974 and stayed until her death 15 years later,” Smith said,

I was fascinated by the mystery of her. And of Alan, the way he coped with it and put up with her. I don’t know who was the oddest. You just wonder where her head was. You think ‘confused,’ but she was very clear in what she thought, trying to form these political parties and writing letters to [Seventies TV personality] Eamonn Andrews and all that.

Expressing her surprise that the film adaptation of The Lady in the Van was made 15 years after the play, she adds,

Whether it was just that Alan decided he wanted to do it, or [director Nicholas Hytner] nagged him, I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t me! I didn’t go on about it at all. But I was very pleased to sort of finish her off in a way.

With a decades-long acting career behind her, Smith says that her favorite role was in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne “because she admired the director, Jack Clayton, so much.”

Meanwhile, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey fans might be surprised to know that the actress isn’t a fan of the attention that her roles in those projects brought her because of – as the Evening Standard writes – “kids asking her to turn them into cats, Americans asking for selfies.”

At one point during the interview, Smith described many of the characters she’s portrayed in recent years as “‘orrible old women.” Later stating that she doesn’t think that she could manage to perform in as many shows a week as a theater role would require, Smith did address the possibility of taking on more film roles:

It’ll be another old bag won’t it, hurr-hurr-hurr.

You can find the full interview with Dame Maggie Smith here. Also from the Evening Standard is a video of Smith accepting her award for Best Actress, which you can view below:

What do you think of Dame Maggie Smith’s recent roles? Would you like to see her in more films? Let us know what you think in the comments below!