Maggie Smith, a legend of acting allergic to ‘selfies’ | People

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A few months ago, the diary The Telegraph she wondered in a headline: “Is Maggie Smith the Best British Supporting Actress?” The question was not without foundation, because this venerated and formidable interpreter, who turns 85 this Saturday, falls into the category – to which her friend Judi Dench also belongs – of “national treasure.” Her career far transcends the roles that gave her planetary fame already in her maturity: Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter saga and the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey, the character for whom screenwriter Julian Fellowes reserved the best phrases (“What’s a weekend?” is a reference that any fan of the series will catch on the fly). “Maggie has the ability to imbue each line with a wit and dimension that sometimes [el texto] it does not deserve ”, the writer has said of her.

In his more than 60 years of career, Smith has achieved it all, especially in the theater, where he started in light comedies and magazines and was consecrated with tragedies such as Othello, by Shakespeare (it was Laurence Olivier’s Desdemona) or Hedda Gabler, by Ibsen, directed by Ingmar Bergman. In the awards and recognitions chapter, none is missing either, and that includes two Oscars —for Miss Brodie’s prime years, as a leading actress in 1970, and California Suite, as high school in 1979and four other nominations for it, a Tony, five Baftas, three Golden Globes and four Emmys. In addition, in 1990 Queen Elizabeth II invested her as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2014 granted her an even more exclusive appointment by including her in the Order of Companions of Honor (a distinction that she shares, again, with Dench and also with writer JK Rowling).

Despite his advanced age, Smith has no intention of retiring. After 12 years without stepping on the London stage, in February he returned with A German Life, a monologue in which she played Goebbels’ secretary and for which she received the umpteenth prize of her career; and in 2020 the film will be released A Boy Called Christmas. But, despite having appeared in dozens of theatrical productions and films (of period dramas such as A room with a view O Gosford Park to blockbusters like Hook O Sister Act), only as a result of the films of the boy wizard and, above all, of the series about the aristocratic Crawley family, did he lose forever the anonymity that he had been able to enjoy until then. “It’s ridiculous. He led a perfectly normal life until Downton Abbey”, He recounted in a talk at the British Film Institute. “I would go to theaters, galleries and places like that on my own. And now I can’t. It’s awful and it’s all because of television. “

She has not yet assimilated that so many people approach her on the street, phone in hand, and what she detests most about this new level of fame are the selfies; only with children – many of them ask him to turn them into cats – he makes an exception. “Before they were just autographs, but now everyone wants photos. You start to feel like all those people who believed that photographs took away your soul “, he admitted in The Times. The most paradoxical thing is that, in a recent interview with the Evening Standard, confessed that, as an actress, neither of the two projects was entirely satisfactory: “I didn’t feel like I was actually acting.” With the late Alan Rickman (Severus Snape in Harry Potter) joked that they had exhausted their repertoire of “reaction shots” when the camera focused on them after a scene starring Daniel Radcliffe and company.

Maggie Smith (Lady Violet Crawley) and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), in a frame from the movie ‘Downton Abbey’.CORDON PRESS

Smith was born in an Essex village and raised in Oxford, the daughter of a secretary and a pathologist who did not spur her early calling; As Michael Coveney wrote in a biography of her, her mother even told her that she would never be an actress “with a face like that.” She admits that she is insecure and self-critical, she doesn’t feel comfortable filming (“I probably drive everyone crazy because I always want to go on and do another take, I never feel like it’s okay”) and she doesn’t watch her movies. She was married twice; first with actor Robert Stephens, father of her two children, Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens, also performers. It was a stormy marriage (“a mistake,” in her words), marked by Stephens’ infidelities.

But the love of his life was the playwright Beverley Cross, whom he joined in 1975, although they had met more than two decades before and had already had a serious relationship. “I am extraordinarily lucky. When you find someone you should have married in the first place, it’s like a script. That kind of luck is too good to be true, “he once told the magazine. People. She was widowed in 1998 and just acting has filled that void. In addition, he overcame breast cancer diagnosed in 2008.

Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Miriam Margolyes (Pomona Sprout), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore) y Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) en 'Harry Potter y la cámara secreta', de 2002.
Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Miriam Margolyes (Pomona Sprout), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore) and Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, 2002.CORDON PRESS

Shy and reserved, but also witty and funny (according to her co-workers Downton Abbey, laughs at cat memes), lately she feels pigeonholed into two types of profiles: old women snob of lapidary phrases a la Violet Crawley or eccentric old women like the homeless Mary Shepherd of Lady in the Van. But, although she has slept in Windsor Castle invited by the queen, she assures that she is more like the second than the first and constantly downplays her legacy as if the rosary of awards she has received and the fact of working at 85 as much as ever (or more than ever) were not reason enough to feel and be satisfied: “Anyone who has lived long enough is an icon. A rather dusty icon ”.

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Maggie Smith, a legend of acting allergic to ‘selfies’ | People