Maggie Smith is one of the most accomplished English actresses on the planet. While she’s best known for her roles in iconic series like Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter film franchise, the Essex-born actress has been working on the stage and screen for seven decades. So where is Maggie Smith today? Is she still alive? Here are the answers to those questions, along with a look at Maggie Smith’s net worth and an overview of her incredible career.
Maggie Smith Was Born In 1934
Maggie Smith was born in Ilford, Essex, on December 28, 1934. Now 87 (and very much alive), the Downton Abbey star knew she wanted to be an actress from the time she was a teen. Unfortunately her parents—a pathologist and a secretary—were not thrilled about her acting ambitions. “Honest to God, I have no idea where the urge [to act] came from,” Smith said in a 2019 interview with the Evening Standard. “It was such a ghastly time and we didn’t go to the theater. I got into terrible trouble once because the neighbors took me to the cinema on a Sunday.”
Maggie Smith’s Career Began 70 Years Ago
Despite her parents’ misgivings, Smith left high school at age 16 to enroll in an acting class at the esteemed independent theater the Oxford Playhouse. In 1952—when she was 17-year-sold—the aspiring actress made her professional debut in an Oxford Playhouse production of Twelfth Night. She continued to work on stage and was eventually invited to become a member of Lawrence Oliver’s National Theatre Company. As a part of that group, she performed frequently at the Royal National Theatre through the ’60s. By the ’80s and ’90s, Smith had become a London and Broadway stage veteran with a slew of prestigious theater awards, including a Tony for her role in the 1990 production of Lettice and Lovage.
Smith also found success in film beginning in the late ’50s. Her first screen credit was in the 1958 crime film, Nowhere to Go, which earned her a British Academy Film Award nomination. She continued to appear in popular movies through the next decade, eventually winning her first Oscar Award for Best Actress in the 1969 film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She won another Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 1978 comedy California Suite, and has been nominated for the honor a total of six times. Smith has also won five British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs), three Golden Globe Awards, and five Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG). Some of her most notable films over the past four decades include A Room with a View, Hook, Sister Act and Sister Act 2, The First Wives Club, Gosford Park, and of course, the Harry Potter series.
Though it came a little later in her life, Smith eventually added television to her impressive acting resume. She won her first BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for All Is Love in 1983 and earned her first Emmy Award nomination for her performance in the 1993 PBS TV film Suddenly, Last Summer. She continued to appear in notable TV projects such as the BBC’s 1999 TV adaptation of David Copperfield, the 2003 HBO movie My House in Umbria, and the 2007 HBO series Capturing Mary.
In 2010, she landed her most notable TV role to date as Violet Crawley in the wildly popular British period drama, Downton Abbey. Smith says she had a wonderful experience making the show and loved playing the Crawley Family matriarch.
“I thought it was great fun because she was so—well, obviously the oldest in the group,” Smith said of her character in a 2016 interview on the NPR program Fresh Air. “And it was wonderful because she would just sort—she was in the position where she could say what she wanted to say because she was the elder and they deferred to her. And that was—it was fun. I’m so glad you said that about the ensemble because we got three awards for ensemble work, which is really good—three SAG awards, which is terrific, for the whole company.”
Because of her success across so many different mediums, Smith is one of a limited number of actors who have achieved what’s known as the “Triple Crown of Acting”—i.e., winning an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. Other notable triple-crowners include Ingrid Bergman, Rita Moreno, Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, and Frances McDormand.
Is She Still In Good Health?
In a 1990 interview with the New York Times, Smith revealed she had been diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 1988. The autoimmune disorder is caused by an overactive thyroid and can affect a person’s eyesight. Fortunately for the actress, who was 54 at the time she was diagnosed, she was able to make a full recovery thanks to radiotherapy and optical surgery.
Smith faced another health crisis in 2007 when learned she had breast cancer. The actress underwent treatment while filming Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. “I was hairless,” Smith explained in a 2009 interview with the Times. “I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.”
Thankfully, the treatment was successful and Smith has been cancer-free ever since. As far as we know, she remains in good health today.
Is She Still Acting Today?
She sure is! Smith delighted fans when she reprised her role in the 2019 Downton Abbey movie, and she’ll appear as Violet once again in the sequel, Downton Abbey: A New Era. The 87-year-old actress also starred in the 2021 holiday film, A Boy Called Christmas, and is slated to appear in the upcoming movies The Miracle Club and A German Life.