Even at 80 years old, the beloved, deliciously deadpan Maggie Smith can’t help but make news. Smith’s publicist now says the actress’ comments to The Sunday Times, which many took to signal the looming end of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, were misinterpreted—but the furor over the possibility of Smith leaving the upstairs/downstairs smash proves she’s as buzzworthy as any tabloid star.
Or perhaps she’s just a canny promoter, thrust back into the headlines as her latest film, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” prepares to open in the United States this Friday (watch the trailer below). With a solid opening weekend in Britain already under its belt, the film is expected to meet or exceed the original’s lucrative worldwide gross of $136 million, and Smith has already drawn raves for her sharp, surprisingly moving performance as the curmudgeonly Muriel Donnelly. (She’s the best thing in the movie, per our own Anne Thompson.)
Now, the two-time Oscar winner appears in the first U.K. trailer for “The Lady in the Van,” which (despite the echoes-of-Chris Farley title) enjoys quite the pedigree. Adapted by Alan Bennett (“The History Boys”) from his autobiographical 1999 play, and directed by longtime collaborator Nicolas Hytner, the film stars Smith as Miss Shepherd, an elderly eccentric who lived in her van in Bennett’s garden for 15 years. “The Lady in the Van,” slated for release this December, co-stars Alex Jennings as Bennett, Frances de la Tour, and soon-to-debut “Late Late Show” host James Corden.