If viewers have learned anything from Downton Abbey’s six-season run of breaking records and dominating awards shows, it’s that the BBC drama is not to be underestimated. And yet, this weekend’s Downton Abbey movie exceeded expectations again, racking up $31 million in North American box office numbers and handily defeating the likes of Ad Astra and Rambo: Last Blood. Theories abound as to how Downton did it, but one hypothesis in particular stands out.
Downton Abbey making twice as much per theater as Rambo or Ad Astra means one thing and one thing only: Dame Maggie Smith is a bigger box office star than Sylvester Stallone and Brad Pitt— Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) September 22, 2019
It’s an observation that picked up steam over the weekend, and as it goes with things like this—see also: Jennifer Lopez post-Hustlers; Lady Gaga post–A Star Is Born—critics and fans alike leave theaters and begin to wonder: What if Maggie Smith … gets an Oscar nom … for Downton Abbey? Ha ha, just kidding … unless … ?
That box office total... starting to suspect Maggie Smith might not just be nominated for an Oscar but win?— Daniel D'Addario (@DPD_) September 22, 2019
Oscars 2020 Best Supporting Actress race could be a gay man’s fever dream with JLo, Maggie Smith, Margot Robbie, Annette Bening, Laura Dern, one of Nicole Kidman’s wigs, a Cat and/or a Little Woman facing off this season.— Stacy Lambe (@sllambe) September 10, 2019
On the most basic level, an Oscar nomination for Smith would be a classic case of “iconic actress scoring a nomination for her most iconic role.” In the Downton Abbey film, Smith says goodbye to the character of Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in touching form, saying that she “may not have long to live” and calling Lady Mary the “future of Downton.” Violet may be best known for her shady one-liners and eternal meme fuel, but the scene is genuinely emotional, while also highlighting the best of Smith’s abilities. I cried. I know you cried too. We all cried. And so why shouldn’t Smith be rewarded for that? Old ladies have been making people cry to the tune of Oscar noms for years.
It seems even more possible that Smith will get an Oscar nomination when you consider how many Emmys she won for Downton Abbey during its televised run. She was nominated five times for the role, and won three. In that time, she also won a Golden Globe and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for her work on the show. And that’s just for her performance as the dowager countess—in years prior, she racked up four additional Emmy nominations and one win for other projects.
It’s notable that the Emmys love Maggie Smith so much, considering the love may not be mutual. As Jimmy Kimmel joked during the 2016 Emmy telecast, Smith has been “nominated for the Emmy nine times, and she’s won three times. How many times do you think she’s shown up to get the Emmy? That’s right, no times.”
He continued, “If we call your name and you are not here to accept, the Emmy goes to the next name on the list. It’s called the Maggie Smith rule.” After Smith’s win—her fourth—Kimmel intercepted the Emmy and proclaimed that Maggie could pick it up at the lost-and-found. Ever the good sport, Smith responded via the PBS Twitter account the following day.
The Emmys have, perhaps, been overly generous to Smith (if such a thing is possible). But arguably, the Oscars aren’t far behind. Smith has been nominated for six Oscars over the course of her career, spanning from 1965’s Othello to 2001’s Gosford Park. She’s won twice: Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1970, and Best Supporting Actress for California Suite in 1979. Ever on brand, she didn’t show up for her first win, though she made an appearance for the second.
So there’s precedent here for another nomination, and I really can’t think of a good reason why it shouldn’t happen. Maggie is getting up there in years—she’s 84!—and who knows how many more chances we’ll have to celebrate her utter greatness? Plus, who doesn’t want to see J.Lo and Maggie Smith do Oscar season side by side? Assuming the latter actually shows up, of course.