Maggie Smith has made her last appearance in Downton Abbey, it is confirmed. However, the movie Downton Abbey: A New Era wasn’t going to let that go without ceremony. Director Simon Curtis made Smith’s last day at Highclere Castle special.
[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Downton Abbey: A New Era.]
Downton Abbey: A New Era is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD and digital. One of the bonus features commemorates Smith’s portrayal of Dowager Countess Violet Crawley and reveals what happened on her last day of filming.
Maggie Smith’s last day of ‘Downton Abbey’ was July 23, 2021
At the end of Downton Abbey: A New Era, the Dowager Countess dies peacefully in her bed. That wasn’t the final scene Smith shot, though. On July 23, 2021, Smith filmed a scene with the cast, including new arrival Dominic West, in the dining room of Highclere Castle. When they called wrap on Smith, Curtis organized applause on her way to her car.
“I wanted to mark that moment and I finally thought well, we’ve got all these cast and this crew, let’s clap her out,” Curtis said. “We created a sort of corridor from Highclere to her car. That’s one of the great iconic performances of all time so yeah, it needed to be marked in a very special way. That was a privilege for us all to do that.”
Maggie Smith left her mark on the cast of ‘Downton Abbey’
Smith did not give the DVD an interview, but her costars spoke highly of the experience of working with Smith throughout Downton Abbey the series and movies.
“The one thing I’ve really learned is Maggie is as quick if not quicker than the Dowager Countess off set as she is on,” Allen Leech said.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who once said Smith is the reason the show exists, frequently utilized her ability to pivot.
“She has a great gift that she can be very funny one minute and two minutes later have you crying,” Fellowes said.
Laura Carmichael reacted specifically to Smith’s wit.
“She’s very witty on set and she’s just sort of always right,” Carmichael said. “I think she’s got incredible taste and she really sees things in moments that no one else will pick up on, a turn of phrase, the way that she says the lines that don’t read like the funny lines. They don’t read always like one-liners. Inamongst something she’ll find a way of saying it that suddenly people want it on a poster.”
Maggie Smith was a tough act to follow
Other Downton Abbey stars acknowledged that they had to rise to the occasion of scenes with Smith.
“Maggie Smith is a phenomenon, let’s face it,” Hugh Bonneville said. “You just have to raise your game whenever you’re on set with her because she takes no prisoners. Julian unashamedly gives her the best lines and she delivers them with laser sharp precision and makes the rest of us look like amateurs. What’s not to like?”
Elizabeth McGovern also felt the magnitude of Smith, but was impressed by her modesty.
“It’s not only Maggie, it’s everything she represents,” McGovern said. “I don’t think she’s even herself aware of what it is she does that people love so much.”