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Maggie Smith: I'm always the mean old cow

Published 10/11/2015

Maggie Smith: I'm always the mean old cow
Maggie Smith: I'm always the mean old cow

Maggie Smith wouldn't have been able to tolerate her latest character in The Lady in the Van.

Maggie Smith fears she has been typecast as the "mean old cow" in recent years.

The British actress has been performing on stage and screen for nearly 60 years, winning two Academy Awards, five BAFTAs, three Golden Globes and a Tony Award during that time, but in recent years she has played more cynical characters, such as the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey and Miss Shepherd in her latest movie The Lady in the Van. And the star feels like she has become synonymous with such grumpy roles.

"Now I'm stuck with being a mean old cow," she tells the BBC. "I'm stuck with that, but you know, so be it."

The Lady in the Van chronicles the true story of an elderly woman, Mary Shepherd, who lived in a battered van on the driveway of writer Alan Bennett's London property for 15 years.

Maggie has played the role twice before - in the original theatre production in 1999, for which she received an Olivier Awards nomination, and again in a 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation, but despite her closeness to the part, she never met the real Mary.

"I'm the only person I know who hasn't ever seen her," she continued. "I know she's dead, of course she's dead, she's been dead a long time, but nearly everybody I meet had come across her, so I've always felt a bit out of it.

"It was odd because, to this day, Alan keeps coming up with different things about her, and he said - which I don't believe for a moment - "well she didn't really impinge (intrude)". I wouldn't have been able to cope with it, she would definitely have impinged."

Maggie is generating Oscar buzz for her performance. If she scores a nomination, it will be her sixth. She has won twice - a Best Actress award for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and a Best Supporting Actress trophy for her role in 1978's California Suite.

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