Dame Maggie Smith says she was “rescued” by Dame Julie Andrews when she found herself close to running out of cash during her debut Broadway run.
The veteran actress, 86, began her career on stage performing at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952 before landing a role in the New Faces Of ’56 review show at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway.
Speaking alongside her close friend, the US actress Kathleen Turner, during an online event organised by Fane, she told how Dame Julie took her under her wing after spotting her crying in a hotel lift.
Dame Julie, 85, was at the time starring on Broadway in her breakout role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
Dame Maggie, who was in her 20s at the time, told Turner and host Gyles Brandreth she had not anticipated how expensive her time in New York would be.
She said: “It was ghastly. First of all I wasn’t really paid very much. In fact, I think it was 16 dollars a week which even then was really… And I had been booked into a hotel which of course I could not pay for. But I was rescued by Julie Andrews. I had been put in this hotel and Julie was there with (set and costume designer) Tony Walton.
“I was going up in the elevator and weeping, which is what I did all the time because I was in such distress about the whole thing. They saw that I was weeping and in a terrible state and they asked me to have tea with them, which I did.
“Then Julie’s agent rescued me. I didn’t realise that I would have to pay (labour union) Equity and my agent and my London agent.”
Dame Maggie, who has won two Oscars and five Baftas, admitted she still suffers from imposter syndrome and compares herself to her peers including Dame Judi Dench.
She said: “Of course, you learn all the time. I learnt so much from Judi, from all these people that I work with. They all seemed to be so at ease with it.
“I always felt… And I know what they call it, Imposter (syndrome). I felt that. I still feel it. I look back and I can’t believe that a lot of it has happened.”
Dame Maggie was speaking with Turner and Brandreth as part of the Fane Online series, in support of The Royal Theatrical Fund, which provides support to those who have worked in the industry.
The two actresses’ friendship began in 2000 while they were both appearing in London’s West End.
Dame Maggie was in The Lady In The Van at the Queen’s Theatre while Turner was starring in The Graduate at the Gielgud Theatre.
Despite two decades of friendship, they have never performed publicly together.