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Filthy, dressed in rags and living in a battered old van, Maggie Smith's latest character is a long way from "Downton Abbey" – and the actress couldn't be happier.Smith has shed her Edwardian-era corsets and hats to play an eccentric elderly vagrant in the film "The Lady in the Van". "Oh, you bet!" laughed Smith with more energy than her character expended in five seasons of the country-house costume drama. The final series' current run on PBS coincides with the U.S. release of "The Lady in the Van," in which Smith plays a real-life homeless woman – Miss Shepherd, who parked in the driveway of writer Alan Bennett's London house, and stayed for 15 years.Smith said she was keen to explore Miss Shepherd again with the more intense focus of film, and to work with filmmaker Nicholas Hytner, who also directed movie adaptations of Bennett's plays "The Madness of King George" and "The History Boys". AP interviewed Smith in a luxury London hotel suite where Kate Middleton stayed the night before she married Prince William – more suited to Lady Grantham than Miss Shepherd.
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