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Maggie Smith at the BFI London Film Festival on Monday. (Rex Features/AP Images)

Here at Anglophenia, we are always trying to come up with new lists. Maybe next we should offer “100 Reasons To Love Dame Maggie Smith.”

We could start with her wisecrack at a press conference in London on Monday to promote a showing of her latest movie, Quartet, at the BFI London Film Festival. (Quartet opens in the U.S. on Dec. 28.)

When informed by an Italian reporter that a sandwich had been named after her in his homeland, Smith responded, “Oh, is it ham?”


Smith, 77, plays a retired opera diva who moves into a retirement home for musicians in Quartet. Other residents there are played by veteran British stars Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins and Scottish funnyman Billy Connolly. The film was directed by actor Dustin Hoffman, now 75.

At the press conference, The Telegraph reports that Smith said she hopes Quartet might duplicate the success of her last film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, another retirement residence movie which grossed $134 million worldwide.

“I think it’s because a lot of grown-ups would like films for grown-ups and about grown-ups,” she said.  “It seems to me there is a change in what audiences want to see. I can only hope that’s correct, because there’s an awful lot of people of my age around now and we outnumber the others.”

When it had its premiere last month at the Toronto Film Festival, Quartet received kindly albeit mixed reviews.

“The lightweight story, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood‘s play about a retirement home for aging classical musicians, plays by the rules and lets the performances lead the way,” wrote critic Eric Kohn in Indiewire.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young said, “This optimistic fairy tale about aging and the continuing possibilities it offers for emotional satisfaction should strike the fancy of older audiences who turned the British indie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel into a breakout hit released around the world. Leading a cast of real-life musical veterans, Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay put the stamp of quality on a lush-looking production, albeit one that adheres to genre rules with an iron grip.”

Smith also continues to star in her Emmy-winning role as the Dowager Countess in the hit British series, Downton Abbey. Its third season will begin airing on PBS in January.

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By Leah Rozen