Eleven Interesting Facts About Dame Maggie Smith

March 5, 2014

A wonderfully talented actress who has most recently played the stern Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the formidable Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith, has won two Oscars, three Emmys and five BAFTAs.

Here are eleven things you need to know about Smith’s highly interesting life and career.

1. First performance

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Her first stage performance was as Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (when she was in the Oxford University Dramatic Society). Her compelling acting in the play led to her being invited to be part of New Faces of 1956 (which was her first Broadway appearance).

2. Loves Jane Austen

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Smith is a huge fan of Jane Austen and all of her work.

3. In the Top 10 greatest British film actresses

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In the Orange Film Survey of the greatest British film actresses conducted in 2001, Smith was awarded tenth place. Julie Walters won first place, with Smith’s close friend Judi Dench taking second place.

4. Smith beat breast cancer

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In 2007, Smith’s battle with breast cancer was made public. She had a malignant tumor removed, and then went through a course of chemotherapy. However, she is said to have made a full recovery from the disease. Unfortunately, she also suffers from an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease, which primarily causes problems with the eyes and the thyroid gland.

5. Has twin brothers

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She has twin brothers named Ian and Alistair. They are six years older than Smith is, and they have both pursued careers in architecture.

6. Married twice

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Smith has been married twice. She was originally married to fellow actor Robert Stephens, with whom she had two sons. However, the couple divorced in 1974 after thirteen years of marriage, and Smith married Beverley Cross (a playwright) the following year. Sadly, he has since passed away, and Smith says that the loss continues to be deeply painful.

7. More than educated

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She has several honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Bath, and honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of St. Andrews.

8. She’s won it all

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Along with just twelve other actresses, Smith has won the so-called “Triple Crown of Acting” (which means that she has an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy). The only other actresses who have also achieved this level of success are Anna Bancroft, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley Booth, Ellen Burstyn, Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Rita Moreno, Vanessa Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton and Jessica Tandy.

9. Cat lover

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By offering a drawing of her own hand to the Celebrity Paw Auction in 2012, Smith helped to raise money for Cats Protection (which educates people about cats, tries to rehome unwanted cats and promotes cat welfare).

10. Relationship with Judi Dench

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In addition to working with her good friend Judi Dench on a regular basis, Smith has also worked with Judi Dench’s daughter (Finty Williams). Meanwhile, Dench has also worked with Smith’s son, Toby Stephens.

11. Place on Avenue of the Stars

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Smith was one of the very first people to be featured in the Avenue of Stars (which is a British version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame). She is in the company of friends here, alongside seven other actors who played prominent roles in the Harry Potter films.

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