Nothing Like Four Dames! Maggie Smith to Appear in New Documentary

Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) is a force of nature all on her own. But putting her in a room with the legendary Dames Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright might just lead to an overload of talent all in one place! The four dames recently gathered at Plowright’s home in Sussex to film a documentary about their decades acting on both stage and screen. The BBC documentary, tentatively entitled Nothing Like a Dame, is the first time these incredible actresses have ever appeared on-screen together, though they are all friends. It covers a myriad of topics, from the lack of opportunities for older women in film, to the term “national treasure,” which Dench says she despises:

I don’t like that very much, I’m afraid. That sounds pretty dusty to me. It’s Alan Bennett and I behind glass in some forgotten old cupboard. I don’t like it at all.

Smith confessed that she and Dench have battled for roles before since so few are available to them:

Judi’s always there…It was Joan Plowright who said that to me: ‘There are always parts, but Judi gets her paws on them first.’

Dench has indeed taken on another huge role recently, in Victoria and Abdul, a film about Queen Victoria’s decade-long friendship with an Indian servant named Abdul Karim. Smith, however, played a rather different character in Lady in the Van, the true story of a woman who lived on playwright Alan Bennett’s driveway for 15 years. Before that, she appeared as Lady Violet Crawley in the long-running series Downton Abbey for five years before its conclusion in 2015. The two actresses also starred together in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel.

Atkins, whose stage credits are unbelievably astounding, played another queen in The Crown. Her role as Queen Mary, the grandmother of a young Queen Elizabeth II, received critical acclaim and was part of the reason the series has been renewed for a second season, premiering on December 8.

Plowright had to retire from acting when she lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, but her last appearance was in the 2009 thriller Knife Edge. In 2006, she turned down the role of yet another queen, as the Queen Mother opposite Dame Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. The role was claimed by Sylvia Syms.

BBC executive Mark Bell, who commissioned the film, told the Telegraph how he wanted to see the four dames finally unite on screen:

These four great dames are friends with a long, shared history, and they often meet up and reminisce…We know them well but usually see them in character. To see these incredibly celebrated women talking naturally together felt like a fresh take.

We’re just as excited as he is! The film is scheduled to be screened next year, but until then, we’ll be waiting for Victoria and Abdul to premiere on September 22 and binge watching Downton Abbey. 

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  • It seems like, while there are fewer roles, at least the UK keeps giving these actresses some roles. These ladies, with the likes of Helen Mirren and Diana Rigg, are quite busy acting when they’re not being national treasures. In the US, seems we just put actresses out to pasture once they hit forty if they’re not named Meryl Streep.