Updated: Nov 17, 2017 9:59 am
At the grand age of 82, there's no question that actress Dame Maggie Smith has lived an incredibly impressive life. She's been working in film since the '50s, after all. And there's the whole thing where she's a dame, which is impressive enough on its own. Frankly, she's our role model in life for pretty much everything — but here are 7 reasons for why she's our favorite role model when it comes to aging gracefully.
She doesn't sweat getting older.
Maggie Smith may be 82 years old now, but she hasn't always been — and yet she's been playing granny characters for quite some time now. "I’ve been playing old parts forever," she said in an interview. "I play 93 quite often. When you’ve done it more than once, you take the hint. I think it’s a great burden if you’re one of those fantastic stars who’ve always been beautiful, then I think it’s hard."
That is to say, Maggie's never taken it as an insult when someone's seen her as older than she actually is. She's not afraid to live her life naturally, either — though she finds humor in it, too, joking that she wouldn't have been opposed to plastic surgery if she'd started getting it younger. She's also laughed off questions about why she doesn't attend more awards shows: "I truly think if I went to Los Angeles, for example, I think I’d frighten people... They don't see older people." Still, she's never afraid to be herself on camera.
She's brought to life some amazing older characters.
Part of embracing her age — and the age of the roles she's offered — is that she's not just an inspiration for aging gracefully, her characters are, too. In recent years, she's starred as Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey, Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, and Muriel Donnelly in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Her characters are incredible in many different ways, including owning and being proud of who they are.
And they're not just all sweet, old grandmas. The Dowager Countess of Grantham takes guff from no one and is frequently as snarky as they come. Professor McGonagall was a fierce protector of her students and justice at large, even in duels, and Muriel Donnelly is smart, strong, and stubborn, though she softens up over time. She's not just defying Hollywood stereotypes herself — her roles are, too.
She's still working.
In an industry that frequently highlights only the young, Maggie Smith is still following her dreams. Most people start to think about retiring in their 60s, but in her 80s, the beloved actress is still landing new roles and acclaim. "When you're getting into the granny era, you're lucky to get anything," she once quipped. And yet, she's still got a new movie coming out next year, and even more projects down the road if she's interested.
She fought cancer and won.
In 2008, at the age of 73, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatment and went through chemotherapy. At first, she didn't think she could make it. "Some people say you have to fight cancer. But it was fighting me," the now 82-year-old explained. "The cure was worse than the disease, and it left me totally exhausted and depressed... The chemotherapy was very peculiar, something that makes you feel much worse than the cancer itself, a very nasty thing." Nonetheless, she managed to continue working even while undergoing treatment — and after, she made a full recovery.
She always keeps a positive attitude.
The dame has been through a lot in life, whether it's health issues, struggles with the press, or in her personal relationships. But she knows that even when times are tough, being able to laugh can take you far. "I tend to head for what's amusing because a lot of things aren't happy," she said. "But usually you can find a funny side to practically anything." That optimistic spirit is far from naïve, though. Instead, it's a mark of someone who's seen darkness and chose to focus on the light instead.
Hello, she's a dame.
Back in 1970, Queen Elizabeth II herself named the actress a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, then in 1990 elevated her further to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The title was in honor of all of her work in the performing arts, and it's clear Maggie more than deserves it. In 2014, she also was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, only the third actress to have done so. On top of those recognitions, she's also won two Oscars and has been nominated for four more between the years of 1966 and 2002. If that's not maintaining a long legacy of excellence — something we can all aspire to — we're not sure what is.