Legendary Actress Maggie Smith's Life in Photos

The Downton Abbey actress turns 88 on Dec. 28 — see her incredible life in photos 

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Maggie Smith's Star on the Rise

Maggie Smith

Dame Maggie Smith was born on Dec. 28, 1934, and has had an impressive and expansive career, which includes more than 60 film roles that won her Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.

She made her professional stage debut on Broadway in 1956 in New Faces of '56.

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Maggie Smith On the Stage

Maggie Smith
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

In 1964, Smith starred as Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello opposite Laurence Olivier at the Royal National Theatre. She reprised the role in the 1965 film adaptation, earning herself her first Oscar nomination.

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Maggie Smith Meets The Queen

Maggie Smith
Arthur Sidey/Mirrorpix/Getty

In 1966, Smith met Queen Elizabeth II after a performance of Othello.

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Maggie Smith and Husband Robert Stephens

Maggie Smith
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

In 1967, Smith married her first husband, Robert Stephens; they divorced several years later.

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Maggie Smith's Children

Maggie Smith

Smith shares two children with Stephens — she welcomed son Chris Larkin in 1967 and Toby Stephens in 1969.

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Maggie Smith in Oh! What a Lovely War

Maggie Smith

In 1968, she looked like pure royalty while starring in Oh! What a Lovely War.

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Maggie Smith's First Oscar

Maggie Smith
Evening Standard/Getty

In 1969, Smith starred in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie alongside Stephens. The performance would earn her her first Academy Award for Best Actress.

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Maggie Smith and Lauren Bacall

Maggie Smith
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

In 1970, Smith got the giggles at the Tony Awards with fellow legendary actress Lauren Bacall.

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Maggie Smith in Travels with My Aunt

Maggie Smith

In 1972, she starred in Travels with My Aunt, earning herself another Oscar nomination.

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Maggie Smith Wins Oscar, Again

Maggie Smith
Mondadori via Getty

In 1978, she starred in California Suite, a performance that earned her another Academy Award — this time for Best Supporting Actress. She has been nominated six times.

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Maggie Smith and Brooke Shields

Maggie Smith

Here, she poses with Brooke Shields as she shows off her award for Best Supporting Actress.

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Maggie Smith Wins a Tony

Maggie Smith
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

In 1990, Smith won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Lettice and Lovage. She has been nominated for three Tonys in her career.

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Maggie Smith Wins a BAFTA

Maggie Smith
Dave Benett/Getty

Smith has won five BAFTA Awards in her career — four of which were for best actress. In 1993, she was honored with the BAFTA Special Award, where she joked, "If it's possible to be in films without taking your clothes off or, indeed, killing people with machine guns, I seem to have managed to do that!"

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Maggie Smith and Beverley Cross

Beverley Cross, Maggie Smith
Fiona Hanson/PA Images via Getty

Smith remarried, to playwright Beverley Cross, in 1975. They were together until his death in 1998.

In a 2013 interview with 60 Minutes, Smith responded to a question about whether life without Cross was lonely by saying, "I don't know. It seems a bit pointless ... Going on one's own and not having someone to share it with."

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Maggie Smith in Sister Act

Sister Act

It's not all drama for Smith, who has starred in plenty of comedies throughout her career, including Sister Act (1992) and its sequel Sister Act II: Back in the Habit (1993), First Wives Club (1996) and more.

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Maggie Smith in Gosford Park


In 2001, Smith was nominated for Academy and Golden Globe Awards for her performance in Gosford Park.

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Maggie Smith in The Breath of Life

Maggie Smith
Ian West/PA Images via Getty

In 2002, Smith returned to the stage with pal (and fellow Dame) Judi Dench for The Breath of Life.

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Maggie Smith in Ladies in Lavender

Maggie Smith
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty

In 2004, Dames Dench and Smith met with Queen Elizabeth once again, this time at a screening of their latest collaboration, Ladies in Lavender.

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Maggie Smith Is Made a Dame

Maggie Smith
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

In 1990, Smith was given the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, and then in 2014 she received yet another medal from the Queen, Order of the Companions of Honor (pictured). The award is reserved for those who have "made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine or government lasting over a long period of time."

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Maggie Smith in Harry Potter

Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 2
Dame Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter series .

In 2001, Smith began her tenure as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films, and continued to play the role throughout the franchise's eight installments.

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Maggie Smith's Health Scare

Maggie Smith

In 2007, Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer, acting through treatment while filming Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. In 2009, after two years of treatment, the actress recovered, and though she told The Times that she was "fearful of the amount of energy one needs to be in a film or play," she continued to act.

She starred in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2011, The Lady in the Van in 2015, and voiced characters in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes.

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Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey


In fact, she went on to play the role of The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley, in Downton Abbey, and continued to play her until 2015.

Her performance earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 2013 and two more for Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Drama Series.

She reprised her role in the 2022 Downton Abbey film, A New Era.

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