Childhood & Early Life
Margaret Natalie “Maggie” Smith was born in Ilford, Essex on 28th December 1934. Her father Nathaniel Smith was a public health pathologist and her mother’s name was Margaret Hutton. Her family moved to Oxford when she was four, as her father was appointed at the Oxford University as a pathologist. She had two elder twin brothers.
Till the age of sixteen, she studied at the Oxford High School, and later from 1951 to 1953, she studied at the Oxford Playhouse School. In 1952, she made her professional debut in a production of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. She made her film debut in 1956, playing an unaccredited role in the film ‘Child in the House’.
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Maggie Smith’s first important role on the big screen was in the British crime film ‘Nowhere to Go’ in 1958. The film was about a criminal who is looking for his stashed loot after escaping from prison, while being hunted by the police and shunned by his accomplishes. Smith won the BAFTA Award for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’.
Smith appeared in films such as ‘Go to Blazes’ (1962), ‘The Pumpkin Eater’ (1964) ‘Othello’ (1965) and ‘Hot Millions’ (1968). Her role in ‘Othello’ earned Smith her first Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, she was also seen in dramas by renowned playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov.
In 1969, she played the titular lead role in ‘The Prime of Jean Brodie’, a drama film that was based on the novel of the same name. Though the film wasn’t much of a commercial success, it was praised by the critics.
She next appeared in films such as ‘Travels with My Aunt’ (1972) and ‘Death on the Nile’ (1978). The former earned Smith her third Oscar nomination. She won her second Academy Award in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category for her role in ‘California Suite,’ a 1979 comedy film directed by Herbert Ross. She won the Golden Globe Award as well in the ‘Best Actress-Comedy or Musical’ category.
Maggie Smith earned her first nomination for the Tony Award in 1975 in the ‘Best Actress’ category for her work in the play ‘Private Lives’ and her second one for her role in the play ‘Night and Day’ in the same category.
Her next important work was the 1981 fantasy film ‘Clash of the Titans’ where she was seen in one of the main roles. The film was a commercial success, earning $41 million on a $9 million budget.
In 1984, she was seen in the comedy film ‘A Private Function’, which became a commercial success. It won Smith her second BAFTA award. She won two more BAFTA Awards in the same decade, for her role in ‘A Room with a View’ (1985) and ‘The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn’ (1987). In 1990, she won her first and only Tony Award so far, for her role in the play ‘Lettice and Lovage’.
Her work in the 1990s include ‘Hook’ (1991), ‘The Secret Garden’ (1993), ‘Richard III’ (1995) and ‘Curtain Call’ (1999). She won her fifth BAFTA award for her role in the 1999 film ‘Tea with Mussolini’ a semi-biographical film that takes place during the Second World War. The film was a commercial success.
Her popularity reached newer heights in 2001, after she her portrayal of witchcraft teacher Minerva McGonagall in the fantasy film ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’ adapted from JK Rowling’s book of the same name. Directed by Chris Columbus, the film was a big hit, earning more than $1 billion. Reviews were also mostly positive.
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In 2001, she also played a supporting role in the British mystery film ‘Gosford Park’ which had earned much acclaim from the critics. It was also a financial success.
After appearing in the 2002 film ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ she reprised her role of Minerva McGonagall in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, the second film of the Harry Potter film series. It was a critical and commercial success.
In 2003, she won her first Emmy Award for her role in the TV movie ‘My House in Umbria’. Her next film ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’, which was released in 2004, was also a critical and commercial hit.
In 2005, she appeared in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, the fourth film of the Harry Potter series. It was a financial and critical success. She reprised the role of McGonagall in three more films of the movie series: ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ (2007), ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ (2009) and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part II’ (2011).
The more recent films in her career include ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007), ‘Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang’ (2010), ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ (2011), ‘My Old Lady’ (2014), and ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ (2015).
From 2010 to 2015, she played an important role in the TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ which won her multiple Emmy Awards. Her most recent work is a voice role in the animated comedy film ‘Sherlock Gnomes’.
‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ is among the major works of Maggie Smith’s career. Directed by Ronald Neame, the film was based on a novel of the same name, by Muriel Spark. Smith’s portrayal of an idealistic, unorthodox schoolteacher was much appreciated and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. She also won the BAFTA Award in the same category. The film didn’t do too well financially, but the critical reception was positive.
Maggie Smith is also known internationally for her role of Professor Minerva McGonagall in the famous and critically acclaimed ‘Harry Potter’ film series. She played the character in seven out of the eight films of the series. The films, which were based on the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling, were much successful critically and financially. She was nominated for the ‘Phoenix Film Critics Society Award’ and the ‘Saturn Award’ for her role.