Dame Maggie Smith has two Academy Awards, five BAFTAS, four Emmys, and a Tony Award, along with Screen Actors Guild prizes and Golden Globes for days, but that apparently hasn’t always equated to fulfillment for the “Downton Abbey” star. According to a new interview with Smith in the Evening Standard, the actress was especially underwhelmed by her participation in the “Harry Potter” films, dating back to Chris Columbus’ 2001 “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and even in “Downton.”
“I am deeply grateful for the work in ‘Potter’ and indeed ‘Downton’ but it wasn’t what you’d call satisfying. I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things,” Smith said, recalling her turn as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the hit series adapted from the J.K. Rowling novels. Smith also said that she pivoted to screen roles such as in “Harry Potter” and on “Downton Abbey” as Violet Crawley — a performance that has earned her a bounty of accolades that the British actress notoriously, rarely shows up to collect — because the work on stage, her true passion, just wasn’t happening.
“I wanted to get back to the stage so much because theatre is basically my favorite medium, and I think I felt as though I’d left it all unfinished,” she said. “But there wasn’t anything that came along.” Indeed, Smith has appeared in dozens of plays dating back to the early 1950s, including countless iterations of Shakespeare. Most recently she reprised her iconic “Downton Abbey” role in Focus Features’ fall screen version of the Julian Fellowes series. Fellowes also wrote the original screenplay for Robert Altman’s 2001 “Gosford Park,” which earned Fellowes an Academy Award win and Maggie Smith a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Also in the Evening Standard piece, Smith talked about the origins of her acting ambitions in a manner that’s very, well, Maggie Smith. “Honest to God, I have no idea where the urge came from,” she said. “It was such a ghastly time and we didn’t go to the theatre. I got into terrible trouble once because the neighbors took me to the cinema on a Sunday. But I had a wonderful teacher, Dorothy Bartholomew, who also taught Miriam Margolyes, and who encouraged me.”