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Dame Maggie Smith on Her Fight with Breast Cancer, Filming Last Harry Potter and More

Smith
Posted by: sue
October 04, 2009, 05:24 PM

On this day when we in the fandom are celebrating Professor McGonagall's birthday, it is only fitting that we hear from the woman who brings this character so memorably to life on the screen: Dame Maggie Smith. The Times has released a brand new interview with this acclaimed actress, where she discusses her career, her role as the Head of Gryffindor in the Harry Potter films series (she noted she is about to film again shortly for Deathly Hallows later this year), and most importantly her battle against breast cancer. Readers will recall of course that we learned she was fighting this terrible disease while Half-Blood Prince was in production, and in this interview she discussed going through treatment as she was filming, and the aftermath of the chemotherapy she endured where she lost her hair. Noting now she is OK and has received the "all-clear" from her doctors, Dame Maggie Smith speaks at length and very movingly of her battle as follows:

The cancer must have made it harder. “It was hideous . . . not so good,” she says tightly and looks for some wood to touch. The chemotherapy, she says, “was very peculiar, something that makes you feel much worse than the cancer itself, a very nasty thing. I used to go to treatment on my own, and nearly everybody else was with somebody. I wouldn’t have liked that. Why would you want to make anybody sit in those places?”

Smith had found a lump on her breast. “I had been feeling a little rum and didn’t know why. I was never nervous, well I was, but I didn’t think it was anything serious because years ago I felt one before and had been hurled into hospital. It was benign and assumed this one would be too. It was a bit unnerving when it wasn’t. But treatment is so swift you don’t have time to think about anything.”

Telling her family (two adult sons and their loved ones) was “awful. It [the illness] kind of takes the wind out of your sails, and I don’t know what the future holds, if anything. I really don’t know.”

She says that she has received the all-clear from doctors, and goes back for a check-up later this month, adding that she’s disposed of the hats and caps she bought to cover her baldness: “You think they’re going to work and they don’t.” It was “very weird” to lose her hair. “So weird. Oh, it’s awful. You really do feel horribly sick. I was staggering around Waitrose and felt ghastly. I was holding on to railings, thinking, ‘I can’t do this’.”

She filmed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince mid-treatment. “I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg.”

Smith says that she accepted the possibility of dying. “I was relieved to be the age I was, because by now you feel like it’s all over anyway. That’s why I hated seeing young people receiving treatment [at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London]. I couldn’t bear that, it didn’t seem fair. To be honest, you feel so ghastly you wouldn’t mind dying a lot of the time.”

She struggles for words. “I felt . . . I was just . . . It leaves you so flattened. I’m not sure I could go back to theatre work, although film work is more tiring. I’m frightened to work in theatre now. I feel very uncertain. I haven’t done it for a while [her last stage role was in The Lady from Dubuque in 2007]. I’m not quite sure if it’s like getting back on a horse or a bike. Not that I’d do either, I’d fall off. It’s one of those things you ought to keep on doing and I haven’t for a bit. I would love to be able to because I do love it, but I feel a great lack of confidence. Being unwell and having withdrawn . . . I haven’t been in London for so long, it’s quite scary up here.” Smith is clinking the ice absently in her mineral water. It will seem unimaginable to many that she is talking about giving up theatre, I say. “Well, there’s a limit to what you can do. I’m not into that argument there aren’t any parts for older women, though. Anyway, why should there be? If there’s work I’ll do it and if there isn’t . . . I’ve still got to stagger through the last Potter.”

Editor's Note: I think it's safe to say all of us here at TLC heartily support and loudly applaud Dame Maggie Smith's courage, humor and honesty in the article, a true Gryffindor if there ever was!

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168 Comments

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134 Points

She truly is an amazing actress and woman. My hat’s off to you, Maggie!

Posted by Bway759_ on October 04, 2009, 07:13 PM report to moderator
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42 Points

She is a wonderful actress and a beautiful person, even after what she’s been through to still want to work through the last films,
I hope she continues to have strength when she needs it, and think she has a amazing heart, and will set through anything she puts her mind to.

my thoughts being with her,

maggie

Posted by loseyouslowly on October 04, 2009, 07:17 PM report to moderator
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2525 Points

Oh my god. Maggie is such a brave peson and insperation to us all. God bless you.

Posted by The Nerd on October 04, 2009, 07:24 PM report to moderator
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32 Points

That’s really an amazing story. I’m into acting myself, and I think it’s hard. I can’t even IMAGINE how hard it must be, while battling breast cancer. And yet, she still remains as brilliant as ever

Posted by LunaIsAwesome234 on October 04, 2009, 07:38 PM report to moderator
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1397 Points

I just can echo all that has been said above me, what an extraordinary, courageous, lady. May she stay in remission, my prayers are with her that she reamains cancer-free for years to come!

Posted by Blatcher(ROAR) on October 04, 2009, 07:50 PM report to moderator
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207 Points

Wow, what an inspirational woman. A true Gryffindor!

Posted by WeasleyWonder on October 04, 2009, 08:03 PM report to moderator
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7475 Points

that was a good article. I adora Maggie Smith and I like that she’s pushing through it all.

Such a brave woman.

Posted by Luce-Lupin !~ROAR~! on October 04, 2009, 08:23 PM report to moderator
The_one__colored_by_burdge_bug_thumb
7475 Points

that was a good article. I adora Maggie Smith and I like that she’s pushing through it all.

Such a brave woman.

Posted by Luce-Lupin !~ROAR~! on October 04, 2009, 08:23 PM report to moderator
Harry-potter-harry-hermione-ron-456_thumb
236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:24 PM report to moderator
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236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:27 PM report to moderator
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236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:28 PM report to moderator
Harry-potter-harry-hermione-ron-456_thumb
236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:30 PM report to moderator
Harry-potter-harry-hermione-ron-456_thumb
236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:31 PM report to moderator
Harry-potter-harry-hermione-ron-456_thumb
236 Points

i am so glad that she is fine now. omg i didnt even know that she had cancer. i will pray for her.

Posted by haileypotter on October 04, 2009, 08:31 PM report to moderator
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747 Points

I am glad to hear that Dame Maggie Smith is doing well. I hope after a while she gets her confidence back and finds work in the theatre. I will keep her in my prayers that she continues to be well and gets stronger and that we see a lot of her in movies and theatre in the future.

Posted by Tonks1OoM4,CW[ROAR] on October 04, 2009, 08:45 PM report to moderator
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