Everyone loves Maggie. At least everyone with taste, that is. I was first introduced to Maggie Smith through the film, “A Room with a View”, based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Oh how I loved that movie! The overwhelming romance, the scenes of Italy, the English gardens, the prim, proper, and sad aunt played by Maggie Smith. Luckily for her and for us, her real life bares no resemblance to that character.
Ms. Smith sat down with Mark Lawson of Radio Times to discuss the roles she’s played, especially that of the grandmother in the hit, Downton Abbey. As it turns out, she has not watched a full episode of the famed show. When asked about not liking to watch herself on screen, she said, “I think it’s because it’s forever…you can’t change anything.” She goes on to say that if she watched herself, she would be forever criticizing, and wanting to do things differently.
She also talks about another aspect of film acting – waiting around for your scene. Anyone who’s been on a film set knows how long it takes to set up for a scene. It can take hours. And once they begin the actual filming, the director may do many takes, he/she will fall behind schedule, and other actors are kept waiting around in their trailers for days. This was her experience with “Harry Potter”. She recalls, “…sitting in the trailer, day after day and not being used. That doesn’t make you feel too jolly.”. She also recalls feeling tortured by the hats she was forced to wear in both “Harry Potter” and in Downton Abbey. She recalls being stuck in a trailer “…with that daft hat!”. “There were always the hats! When can I take this thing off?” Apparently, she dislikes hats as much as she dislikes watching herself on screen!
In terms of acting, she remembers not being cast in plays in school because, as she puts it, she was too common. Of course that didn’t stop her and she went on to do theatre, film and television. It’s the television that has really changed her life. She says, “I had a completely normal life before Downton Abbey!” Now wherever she goes, she is recognized, and asked to repeat the things her character has said like, “What is a ‘Week End’?”. Ah, the price of fame is high…but worth it!