One of the world's most famous and distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith was born Margaret Natalie Smith in Essex. Her Scottish mother, Margaret (Hutton), worked as a secretary, and her English father, Nathaniel Smith, was a teacher at Oxford University. Smith has been married twice: to actor Robert Stephens and to playwright Beverley Cross. Her marriage to Stephens ended in divorce in 1974. She was married to Cross until his death in 1999. She had two sons with Stephens, Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens who are also actors.
Maggie Smith's career began at the Oxford Playhouse in the 1950s. She made her film debut in 1956 as one of the party guests in Child in the House (1956). She has since performed in over sixty films and television series with some of the most prominent actors and actresses in the world. These include: Othello (1965) with Laurence Olivier, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), California Suite (1978) with Michael Caine and Jane Fonda, A Room with a View (1985), Richard III (1995) with Ian McKellen and Jim Broadbent, Franco Zeffirelli's Tea with Mussolini (1999) with Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Cher and Gosford Park (2001) with Kristin Scott Thomas and Clive Owen, directed by Robert Altman. Maggie Smith has also been nominated for an Oscar six times and won twice, for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and California Suite (1978).
Most recently, Smith has appeared in the very successful 'Harry Potter' franchise as the formidable Professor McGonagall.
Smith is a breast cancer survivor.
Her most recent role has been in Julian Fellowes' ITV drama series, Downton Abbey (2010) (2010-2011) as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.