Belfast Telegraph

Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd

Dame Maggie Smith looks far removed from her Downton Abbey alter-ego, playing a dishevelled woman living in Alan Bennett's driveway.

The Oscar-winning actress, 79, stars as the eccentric real-life character Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van, an adaptation of playwright, screenwriter and author Alan Bennett's memoir.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, it tells the story of the relationship between the writer and Miss Shepherd, a woman who "temporarily" parked her van in Bennett's London driveway but proceeded to stay there for 15 years.

The movie, from TriStar and BBC Films, will be released in UK cinemas on November 13 next year.

The first official snap shows Dame Maggie a world away from Downton's Dowager Countess.

Dressed as Miss Shepherd, she wears a cap and stained clothes and has a look of excitement and wonder on her face as she is being pushed down the road - holding her walking sticks aloft - in a rackety wheelchair by Bennett, played by Alex Jennings, on location in London.

The movie is being filmed in the actual house and street where Bennett lived for all those years.

The cast also includes Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam and Gwen Taylor.

The director said: "It is a privilege to bring this extraordinary story to the big screen and to share it with cinema audiences around the world."

TriStar Productions chairman Tom Rothman added: "I was standing on the street in Camden Town recently, in the rain naturally, watching Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Nick Hytner, and Alan Bennett himself, wreak comedic havoc on Alan's actual house, thinking what a lucky American I was to be in the presence of such royal British talent."

The film is Hytner's first directorial outing after his successful decade as the head of the National Theatre.

He and Bennett previously collaborated on the films of Bennett's The Madness Of King George and The History Boys.


From Belfast Telegraph