Good news for fans of reassuringly British period dramas everywhere: after endless will they, won’t they news stories, the long-rumoured Downton Abbey film has been confirmed, with the original cast set to reprise their roles. Production is thought to have started at Highclere Castle last week, with a release date slated for 13th September 2019. Just under a year to wait, then...
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Joanne Froggatt (Anna) and Maggie Smith (the Dowager Countess) are all set to return for Downton’s big screen outing. Dockery was one of the first stars to confirm the news earlier this summer, posting a still of her and on-screen sister Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) in full 1920s regalia and writing ‘the secret’s out… Thrilled to announce that Downton Abbey is coming to the big screen. Filming to commence this summer’ on her Instagram account. Her castmate Joanne Froggatt asked her followers ‘Are you as excited as us about the Downton movie?!’ (The answer, Joanne, is always a definite yes…)
The film’s screenplay has been written by the show’s creator Julian Fellowes (who will also be producing); it will be directed by Brian Percival, who directed the show’s 2010 pilot episode. No details of the plot have been released yet (reports last year that the film would be a prequel appear to have proved untrue, given that the original cast are back on board) but we’re at least hoping for some signature one-liners from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess - though a cameo from Lily James (who played Lady Rose from seasons three to five of the show) has already been ruled out by the actress herself. 'My character Rose moved off to New York, so it would be farfetched to bring her back,’ she said. ‘I would have loved to have come back for a scene, but for a movie it can’t be like a Christmas special and it needs to be a focused storyline. There was no space for Rose.’
After six highly successful seasons, Downton Abbey bowed out on Christmas Day in 2015 with a feature-length special episode, though creator Julian Fellowes has since repeatedly expressed his desire to revisit the characters.
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‘When the television series drew to a close it was our dream to bring the millions of global fans a movie and now, after getting many stars aligned, we are shortly to go into production,’ said Gareth Neame, executive chairman of Downton’s production company Carnival Films. ‘Julian’s script charms, thrills and entertains and in Brian Percival’s hands we aim to deliver everything that one would hope for as Downton comes to the big screen.’
While Fellowes, who is also currently working on a new show for US television, The Gilded Age, had previously revealed that he was working on a script, he had also discussed the difficulties surrounding a potential Downton movie, namely the issue of scheduling conflicts as the producers attempted to round up the show’s extensive cast.
Speaking to BBC News this week, the writer revealed that he was 'very pleased' with the film's script. 'I had to make sure every story of every character was completed within the movie,' he said. 'That did take a certain amount [of] jiggery-pokery, but I am pleased with where we came to and very pleased with the reassembled cast.'
'I was at Highclere [where the TV series was shot] on Friday and there was something almost surreal seeing them back in their costumes,' he continued, describing the atmosphere as 'something of a reunion like the first day back at school [...] a very happy school.'