Shirley MacLaine Jokes: Maggie Smith & I "Were Lovers in Another Life"

MacLaine dishes on her upcoming stint on Downton Abbey and recalls her meeting, 40 years ago, with her new costar

Shirley MacLaine had plenty to say about going aristocratic toe to toe with costar Maggie Smith in the upcoming season of Downton Abbey.

During a Television Critics Association (TCA) press conference on Saturday, MacLaine -- who joins the Emmy-nominated series as Lady Grantham's (Elizabeth McGovern) wealthy American mother, Martha Levinson -- reminisced about the first time she ever met Smith, who plays the opinionated Dowager Countess.

"Well, we were lovers in another life," MacLaine, 78, told the crowd when asked if she had ever met Smith. Then she admitted she was exaggerating a bit but shared the story of how the two first crossed paths.

"We had met 40 years ago backstage at the Oscars, next to the catering table," MacLaine recalled. "I was up for something, and there was this big chocolate cake on the catering table. And whatever I was up for, I lost, and somebody else won. And Maggie said, 'You know what you did, dear? You tucked right into that chocolate cake and said, F*** it, I don't care if I'm thin ever again.'"

It's uncertain which Academy Awards ceremony MacLaine is referring to, but she was nominated for five Oscars from 1959-1978 before finally winning for Terms of Endearment in 1984. During the same period, Smith , 77, was nominated four times, winning twice (for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1970 and California Suite in 1979).

Added MacLaine about their backstage convo: "She remembered more than me, but then, she's younger than me. She's one year younger."

If things go well for MacLaine's performance on the BBC drama, which returns to the U.S. on PBS next January, the two could be meeting again at a whole host of awards ceremonies next year!

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