Previous Friendships, New Costumes and Timeless Royal Fever on the Set of the Downton Abbey Film


The day on which the royal go to is being filmed is the proper day to drop in on the set of a film that hinges fully on stated go to. On this explicit October afternoon in Hampshire, southern England, Highclere Citadel—the grand nation home at which six seasons of the beloved PBS sequence Downton Abbey have been filmed—appeared virtually untouched since that present accomplished its six-season run on Christmas Day of 2015 within the U.Okay. and some months later within the U.S. The doorway corridor is not any much less magnificent, the palatial library nonetheless dwelling to plump burgundy sofas, ornate lamps and bookshelves straining beneath the load of historic tomes.

“This is our office space,” Hugh Bonneville affords in a faultless deadpan, referring to the eating room at which Bonneville’s Robert Crawley and the remainder of the Abbey’s earls, girls, butlers and cooks lived out their dramas in entrance of hundreds of thousands of viewers. “After six years you get a bit used to it.”

Most of the cast has returned to this aristocratic workplace house to shoot a continuation of their characters’ storylines for the Downton Abbey movie, out Sept. 20, written by creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler. It has been 4 years since they final donned their tweed and lace-adorned interval costumes and divided themselves into the “upstairs” and “downstairs” units whose unions and divisions drove the present’s drama. The temper on set in the present day has the giddy feeling of a faculty reunion. “It’s like coming back to a family that hasn’t been together for the past few years,” says Allen Leech, who performs chauffeur turned property supervisor Tom Branson, the widower of Jessica Brown Findlay’s Woman Sybil Crawley. “There’s an immediate trust,” provides Elizabeth McGovern, who performs the American heiress Cora Crawley.

A few new faces be part of for this go-round: Peaky Blinders’ Kate Phillips performs Mary, Princess Royal, and British appearing legend Imelda Staunton (whose real-life associate Jim Carter portrays the butler Mr. Carson) revels in her position as a combative lady-in-waiting. However there wasn’t a lot room for brand spanking new additions contemplating the necessity to accommodate the narratives of such a big returning ensemble solid. “Intercourse and the Metropolis solely had 4 characters,” says producer Gareth Neame of one other TV sequence turned movie franchise. “It didn’t have 20.” Juggling that many storylines throughout a 10-hour season was one factor, Neame says, however nothing just like the constraints of a film. “They’re all leading characters. To develop that into a two-hour movie was quite a challenge, but I think we’ve achieved that.”

The Downton Abbey film’s plot revolves round a feverishly anticipated go to from King George V, Queen Mary and the royal household as a part of an official tour of England. The royals are additionally visiting such illustrious locales as Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth Home and Arundel Citadel, and the Crawleys fret over how Downton will stack up. (For extra on the true historical past, see here.) The concept to revolve the film round a royal go to first occurred to Fellowes after he learn a e-book which talked about a visit the king and queen made to Yorkshire in 1912. (The film is ready in 1927, two years after the sequence ended.) “I was looking for an overall story that would affect all the different elements of the cast—the servants, the family, the locals,” he tells TIME throughout a later telephone name. “The royals give the film a kind of unity, so all the stories are part of the main story in one way or another.”

The film raises attention-grabbing moral questions in regards to the up to date monarchy. “I’m a monarchist, my sympathies are entirely on the side of the Crown, but I didn’t want it all to be Molesley-monarchist,” says Fellowes, referring to the Downton butler performed by Kevin Doyle who’s a royalist to the top. “I think we’re very, very lucky to have [the royal family], but you can’t write things where everyone has your own opinions.” Though most characters are thrilled on the prospect of the royals popping by—Mr. Bakewell, the village grocer, describes offering produce for the King and Queen’s keep because the “peak of my career”—the republican viewpoint is put throughout by way of the family’s assistant prepare dinner, Daisy (Sophie McShera). Daisy’s disdain at having to drop every thing to serve a household whose members have carried out little apart from be born into their circumstances mirrors debates which proceed in the present day across the ethics of a hereditary proper to the throne. Questions have been raised in regards to the Queen’s constitutional position as head of state simply this summer time, after she was dragged into parliamentary shenanigans surrounding Brexit.

Politics apart—and the film does largely skirt them in favor of handsomely-costumed uplift—the royals are nonetheless able to eliciting immense pleasure. Watching the near-hysterica with which the film’s royals are met, significantly throughout an extravagant parade scene, it’s arduous not to consider the huge crowds on the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor final 12 months and, for that matter, the relentless media frenzy that appears to encompass each main British royal’s transfer. Regardless of the film’s setting practically a century in the past, it’s evident that the general public’s urge for food for the royal household has barely waned.

The Downton film is the newest show of onscreen royal fever lately, evidenced by Netflix’s large price range sequence The Crown (which returns for a 3rd season in November), PBS’ Victoria and 2018’s The Favourite, which acquired 10 Oscar nominations and gained the BAFTA for Excellent British Movie. However why are viewers—within the U.S. and past—so obsessive about the British royals? “I think there is the obvious aspirational, wish-fulfillment aspect of watching a world of such beauty and richness,” says Engler. “But I also think that given our very fragmented society, the idea of a world where everyone, from the lowest servant to the highest lord, all feel a connection to something larger than themselves, is very alluring.”

Just like the present earlier than it, the Downton Abbey film concludes with its numerous intersecting plotlines all tied neatly in bows. But when the field workplace returns meet producers’ hopes (projections put its opening weekend round $20 million), it’s unlikely that is the final we’ll be seeing of Highclere Citadel and its goings-on. “In this business, you never say never because you’ll only have to take it back,” says Fellowes. Higher maintain these bookshelves dusted.

Write to Kate Samuelson at


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