Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Further Honour for Dame Maggie

Maggie Smith is now a Companion of Honour, as well as a dame
Maggie Smith is now a Companion of Honour, as well as a dame

Oscar-winning star Dame Maggie Smith has been elevated to a Companion of Honour

For a generation of TV viewers, the 79-year-old is now inextricably linked with her role as the Countess of Grantham in period drama Downton Abbey, while fans of the Harry Potter films will recognise her as Professor McGonagal.

But she has had an extensive career stretching back to the 1950s, beginning professionally at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952 and within four years appearing on Broadway.

Her stage performances have continually drawn acclaim and she has collected numerous awards for roles in plays such as Hedda Gabler, Three Sisters and Private Lives.

She earned the first of six Oscar nominations in 1965 for best supporting actress in Othello, going on to win four years later with a best actress trophy for her commanding performance in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Dame Maggie won a further Oscar in 1978 with the supporting actress prize for California Suite.

Her vast range of film credits includes A Private Function, Death On The Nile and A Room With A View and she is soon to star in a movie adaptation of the Alan Bennett play The Lady In The Van, for which she originally starred in a West End run in 1999.

She was made a dame in 1990 and her array of accolades includes a fellowship and a special award from Bafta.

Seven years ago she was treated for breast cancer and said it had knocked her confidence to the extent that she became afraid of returning to the stage.

Born in Ilford, Essex, and raised in Oxford, Dame Maggie has been married twice - to actor Robert Stephens and to playwright Beverley Cross - and is the mother of Toby Stephens. Her other son Chris Larkin is also an actor.

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