Maggie Smith Had A Scary Reputation On The Harry Potter Set

Dame Maggie Smith is one of the world's most distinguished actresses — with an extensive career in theater and films, the 87-year-old veteran is highly respected for her incredible contributions to cinema. Smith's role as Professor McGonagall in the eight-part "Harry Potter" film franchise catapulted her status from an accomplished English actress to an international sensation, but her role in "Downton Abbey" as the resilient, formidable Dowager Countess has further amplified that. With years of experience under her belt, it is only natural for Smith's colleagues to have felt intimidated around her.

While we have plenty of "Harry Potter" bloopers and behind-the-scenes content to attest to how the cast and crew had the time of their lives making the films, some cast members have been revealed to have been somewhat stern. Smith, who is known for playing the caring-but-uncompromising Transfiguration professor in the films, had a severe reputation on set. In fact, director Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two movies in the franchise — "Harry Potter and the

Sorcerer's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" — was scared of her.

Maggie Smith had an alarming reputation

The Evening Standard reported that Maggie Smith was "fierce" to be around, and her costar Miriam Margolyes (who played Professor Sprout in the films) agreed. It was revealed that filmmaker Chris Columbus was so terrified of Smith that he minimized their contact — so much so that he often sent young Danielle Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter) to get her from her trailer.

Margolyes has discussed the alarming reputation surrounding Smith in more than one interview, stating that the multi-award-winning actress is a "great lady" as long as one doesn't get on her bad side. During her appearance on "This Morning," Margolyes stated that she could do a better Scottish accent than Smith and described her as a "great ornament" to the acting profession.

"... Not that I'm rubbishing Maggie Smith, because she's a great lady — I'm scared of her, actually. She's quite something, yes. But she is a great ornament to our profession. We're very lucky to have her around."

'You have to be watchful with Maggie'

Speaking in a 2021 interview (via Express), Margolyes said she'd recommend being "watchful" around Maggie Smith because she could be "absolutely gorgeous" as long as one didn't aggravate her:

"She is a little bit alarming ... You have to be watchful with Maggie because if she's cross, she doesn't mind sharing it."

The actress added: "She's actually a very sweet lady, and if you don't irritate her, she's absolutely gorgeous."

Smith might have been a bit intimidating to her costars on the "Harry Potter" film sets, but in her role as Professor McGonagall, she channeled an inspiring teacher with a warm disposition who was loyal and cared about her students. The actress has since reflected on her experience making the movies, stating that the films earned her a lot of attention from young children, who thought she was a real cat in the movies.