A Downton Abbey movie is officially happening, 18 months after the series officially came to an end. The popular period drama, created by Julian Fellowes, ran for six seasons on ITV in the U.K., and PBS in the U.S.. Following the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants, the drama drew strong viewing figures throughout its run and secured Golden Globe and Emmy wins multiple times, becoming one of the most successful British programs of all time.
Though most would agree the show came to a close at the right time, many would also agree that it is sorely missed, particularly at Christmas in the U.K., since its holiday episodes had become a tradition. Following many rumors of a big screen version, EW has now confirmed that a Downton Abbey movie is officially in the works, with Michael Edelstein, president of NBC Universal International Studios, telling the Associated Press that the movie has been in the works for some time, with production due to start officially in 2018. Speaking at the launch of the Downton Abbey Exhibition in Singapore, Edelstein added:
“We are working on getting the script right and then we’ve got to figure out how to get the [cast] together. Because as you know, people go on and do other things. But we’re hopeful to make a movie sometime next year.”
That cast included Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, and Joanne Froggatt. Whether all or just some of the cast will return for Downton's big screen outing remains to be seen; though Edelstein has confirmed the news, the cast themselves don't seem aware of it being official, with Carmichael, who played Lady Edith, saying:
"Well, tell my agent, because we’re still wanting to know. We’re hoping that will happen soon.”
Meanwhile, Sophie McShera, who played scullery maid Daisy, added: "Oh, well, you’ve got confirmation before us. We have no idea if that’s happening. But we would all love to be part of the film if it was to happen, for sure.”
So it at least sounds like some of the cast will be willing to return, but Fellowes will need to secure either Bonneville, Dockery, or ideally, both, for the movie to really be worth making. After all, though Downton essentially featured an ensemble cast, Lord Grantham was in charge of the estate, with Mary his heir, and the movie would need a plotline that included them in some way. Downton ended life in 1926, a time when society was changing rapidly after the events of the first world war. Landed Gentry such as the Crawley's were finding it impossible to keep their vast estates and were gradually selling off land, property and heirlooms while still trying to preserve the family name. Mary was doing a good job at dragging the Crawley family into this modern era, and it would be interesting to see where she could go next, with a new husband at her side.