Dame Maggie Smith talks about her career, “Harry Potter”, and being recognized
In a new interview with the Telegraph, Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) has spoken about the way that Downton Abbey has changed the way she is recognized, the lasting legacy of Harry Potter, and her status as an icon. On a recent visit to Paris, Maggie found that she was unable to wander around by herself as she once might have done:
I was besieged by Americans and Downton Abbey. That’s never happened to me before. It’s television that does it. It was awful. I love wandering around on my own, and I just couldn’t.
The effect of Downton Abbey has been particularly powerful. Maggie continued to talk about how she deals with the attention:
Run away, mostly. I just make a beeline and go, go, go. It is hard. I don’t know how people cope with it. What do they do, these huge movie stars? What the hell do they do? Perhaps they never go out. I certainly don’t think they walk around on their own. If they want a word of advice, don’t do it in Paris.
Maggie spoke about filming Downton Abbey with Penelope Wilton with affection, however:
I was doing a scene with Penelope Wilton [the righteous Isobel Crawley in Downton] the other day, and I got up with my stick and started wobbling around. ‘Why am I acting old?’ I said. ‘Why am I doing this? I am old!’ I’m trying to work it out: if I’m my age, the Dowager Countess of Grantham must be about 110 by now. She has become a monster.
Penelope and I have a great time. We play endless Bananagrams. She makes me laugh a lot, and we talk about the books we read.
Maggie also talked about how busy she has been recently and the effect of things such as Harry Potter:
The curious thing is I’ve been doing things that go on and on, like Harry Potter and Downton. I need to stop and take a breath – but I can’t.
On her career, Maggie said,
It’s what turns up, quite honestly. When I started out I didn’t have any of this [film and television roles] in mind. Not a scrap of it. I just thought it was going to be all theatre and wonderful.
She further reflects on the difference between theater and film:
In the theatre you knew where you were at. You knew you had to go there in the evening or for the matinee, and you had a length of time to prepare yourself, and then you did it. But this is like being on demand every minute of what seems to me to be 12-hour days or more. Schedules seem to get shorter and shorter.
Wherever I got the idea that working in film or television would not be so stressful as the theatre I do not know. The theatre might not be exactly a holiday, but it’s certainly not as exhausting as film can be. It’s an incredibly tough life. Bette Davis was right: old age is not for sissies. And old age is not for television because it’s so relentless. The young are terrific, but even they get tired.
Finally, on her status as an iconic actress, she said,
Everything’s an icon. If you have been around long enough you are an icon. A rather dusty icon… or a national treasure.
Read the full interview here. Maggie is currently appearing in Season 5 of Downton Abbey, and her new film, My Old Lady, is due to be released in the UK on November 21.Watch a trailer for My Old Lady here.
Are you planning on seeing My Old Lady when it comes out? Are you watching Downton Abbey? Let us know in the comments!