Maggie Smith fears stage fright after cancer fight

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Double Oscar winner Maggie Smith has been so “knocked sideways” by her fight with cancer that she is scared to return to the stage.

Actors Maggie Smith and Rupert Grint share a light moment on the red carpet as they arrive for the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" at Leicester Square in London July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The 74-year-old British actress told the Times newspaper on Monday that despite winning two Oscars and five BAFTAs, her confidence had been destroyed by chemotherapy treatment for a lump on her breast last year.

“It leaves you so flattened. I’m frightened to work in the theater now. I feel very uncertain,” she said.

The actress, best known for her Oscar-winning role in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and the Harry Potter blockbusters, said at one point she contemplated death.

She also knew she will have to “stagger through” filming of the final Potter movie, “The Deathly Hallows” in which she plays Professor McGonagall.

“I think it’s the age when it happened. It knocks you sideways. It takes you longer to recover, you are not so resilient. I am fearful of the amount of energy one needs to be in a film or a play.”

She revealed she was in the middle of cancer treatment while filming “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and said it was “weird” to lose her hair.

“Oh it’s awful. You really do feel horribly sick. I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg,” she said.

Smith’s last stage role was in 2007 in the “The Lady From Dubuque.” Fans can see her later this month at the London Film Festival in Julian Fellowes’ film “From Time To Time” in which she plays a woman helping her son solve a ghost mystery.

If she could be persuaded to return to the stage she would like to perform original roles, ideally written by British playwright Alan Bennett. “I know it’s pointless,” she admitted, saying she had “already shouted at him a lot.”

Describing the last couple of years as a write-off, Smith said she now needed to be more positive.

“My energy is coming back. Shit happens. I ought to pull myself together a bit,” she said.

“It kind of takes the wind out of your sails and I don’t know what the future holds, if anything. I really don’t know.”

Reporting by Georgina Cooper; Editing by Mike Collett-White