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Quartet – Dame Maggie Smith interview


Interview by Rob Carnevale

DAME Maggie Smith talks about being directed by Dustin Hoffman in Quartet and why she was delighted to be able to see a documentary that helped inform her of which direction the film was heading.

She also discusses why there should be more films for elderly, or grown-up, cinema-goers. She was speaking at a press conference held during the London Film Festival.

Q. I understand Dustin Hoffman recommended a documentary, Tosca’s Kiss, to you before start of shooting that tells of a retirement home for opera singers that was left by Verdi?
Maggie Smith: I saw it, yes. It was wonderful to see it because it gave you an inkling as to where we were headed and what we were all going to do. It’s a very, very moving documentary. And the moment I saw it, I thought this is terrific because if Dustin’s on this wavelength we should be safe [smiles].

Q. Are you aware that there has been a sandwich been named after you?
Maggie Smith: [Looks surprised] Good God! Is it ham? [Round of applause] Where is this?

Q. At the Venice Film Festival… There is a stand named after movie stars and the vegetarian one is ‘Maggie Smith’…
Maggie Smith: [Smiles] A vegetarian one? Well, that’s kind of a relief I think.

Q. Haven’t you been resentful of the fact that you’ve been asked to play elderly women quite early in your career?
Maggie Smith: I’m just glad to get any role… the fact that they’re all 90 is neither here nor there! Actually, it was Hook that started it. I think it was Peggy Ashcroft who couldn’t do the part and somebody was asked how old was I and would I be able to do the part, and the person replied “92” very quickly. And so I’ve been stuck ever since! But I’m actually very grateful.

Q. With an ageing population, is there a new genre of film waiting to be uncovered, following the success of Amour at Cannes, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the box office and now this? And should there be?
Maggie Smith: I think it’s because a lot of grown-ups would like films for grown-ups and about grown-ups. It seems to me that there’s a sort of change into what audiences want to see. I can only hope that that’s correct because there’s an awful lot of people of my age around now and we kind of outnumber the others. So, maybe that’s why. I don’t think films about elderly people have been made very much. I think of Cocoon and Driving Miss Daisy. But they always seem to be fairly successful, so it’s a bit baffling as to why everybody has to be treated as if they were five-years-old.

Q. Would you have any advice for people who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Maggie Smith: Try not to cry too much because it can be pretty heart-breaking and pretty hard.

Read our review of Quartet

Read our interview with Dustin Hoffman