In her new movie, The Lady in the Van, 80-year-old Maggie Smith plays the part of the late Miss Shepherd who spent her later years living in a yellow van outside the London home of playwright Alan Bennett.

The film opens on November 13 and is based on the play of the same title – it is also a book – all three of which were written by Bennett, who offered the pensioner temporary residence outside his property during the 1970s and 1980s.

In the late 1960s a Bedford van had first appeared in Gloucester Crescent, north London. The van moved in stages down the street, stopping off at various points for weeks at a time, before finally ceasing to move outside Alan Bennett’s house, at number 23.

Speaking to The Telegraph newspaper Smith declared that she has not yet seen The Lady in the Van. She is reluctant to watch it, having seen herself briefly when doing the ADR (additional dialogue recording).

The actress will soon have a hip replacement and her glaucoma has led to blindness in one eye. "I thought, Jesus, it’s a wonder you’re alive,“ Smith declared. She added: “You cannot be vain when playing Miss Shepherd."

Smith also revealed that she thinks it was right that Downton Abbey should finally end and that it had been "jolly exhausting". 

"But I did much less in the last few months, so I’ve sort of faded rather nicely. I just had dumb arguments with Penelope [Wilton], which was quite fun. We had a lovely time. She’s such a great actress – we used to shriek with laughter.”