Dame Maggie Smith was born on December 28, 1934 in Essex, England. Her parents moved to Oxford when she was four, and she studied at Oxford High School before leaving to study acting at the Oxford Playhouse when she was sixteen. Two years later, in 1954, she made her stage debut, and shortly afterwards she landed her first film role as an extra in Child in the House. Her storied career took off after that, and over the course of her career Maggie shared the screen with legends like Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, and Ian McKellan.
In 1990, Queen Elizabeth named Maggie a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her services to the performing arts. Among dozens of other honors, Maggie has won two Oscars: Best Actress in 1970 for her work in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Best Supporting Actress in 1979 for California Suite. In addition to her many professional accomplishments, Maggie is also a survivor of breast cancer.
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Maggie portrayed Professor Minerva McGonagall in all of the Harry Potter films except for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, in which her character did not appear. Her flawless embodiment of the character of Professor McGonagall has made Maggie beloved by fans all over the world.
Maggie said she was first drawn to the Harry Potter franchise because of the film’s magical aspects. The Great Hall is a favorite setting of Maggie’s, as she says it is exactly as she pictured when reading the books.
During the filming of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Maggie was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for her breast cancer. In her typical straightforward fashion, Maggie has joked of the experience. “I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.”
Maggie has been a contributor to countless charitable organizations over the years, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Cats Protection, which she donated a drawing of her own hand, to an auction for the foundation. In 2011, she donated $4.6 million to rebuild New Zealand’s Court Theater, which was destroyed in an earthquake, and is currently a patron of the International Glaucoma Association, an organization which she joined in 2012 to raise public knowledge of glaucoma.
Maggie has made over 76 appearances on film and television, including projects like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and Quartet. Maggie’s career has been focused mainly on the stage, having appeared in everything from Shakespeare to musicals in London, New York, and Stratford in Canada.
She has recently gained acclaim for her portrayal of the Dowager Countess Violet
Crawley on the smash success series Downton Abbey. Her performance in Downton Abbey has garnered her wins and nominations from the BAFTAs, the Emmys, the Golden Globes, and more.
Maggie has currently won two Academy Awards, seven BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and one Tony Award.