Downton Abbey (film)
Downton Abbey is a 2019 historical period drama film written by Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of the television series of the same name, produced by Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge and Fellowes, and directed by Michael Engler. The film is a Carnival Films production, with Focus Features and Universal Pictures International distributing and continues the storyline from the series, with much of the original cast returning. The film, set in 1927, depicts a visit by the King and Queen to the Crawley family's English country house in the Yorkshire countryside. As the Royal staff descend on Downton, an assassin has also arrived and attempts to kill the monarch. The family and servants are pitted against the royal entourage, including the Queen's lady-in-waiting, who has fallen out with the Crawleys, especially the Dowager Countess, over an inheritance issue.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Engler|
|Screenplay by||Julian Fellowes|
|Based on||Downton Abbey|
by Julian Fellowes
|Music by||John Lunn|
|Edited by||Mark Day|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$189.1 million|
Gareth Neame and Fellowes started planning a feature adaptation in 2016, shortly after the series ended. It was officially confirmed in July 2018 and filming began later that month, lasting through November. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 13 September 2019, and in the United States on 20 September 2019. It received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $189 million worldwide.
The film begins in 1927, about a year and a half after the TV series ended. Buckingham Palace informs Robert and Cora Crawley, the Earl and Countess of Grantham, that King George V and Queen Mary will visit Downton Abbey as part of a royal tour through the country. Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, is perturbed that Maud, Lady Bagshaw, Queen Mary's lady-in-waiting, is included in the tour. Robert is Maud's cousin and her closest relative. The two families have fallen out over who should inherit Maud's estate.
Members of the royal household arrive, including Mr Wilson, the Royal Page of the Backstairs; Mrs. Webb, the Royal Housekeeper; Miss Lawton; the Queen's Royal Dresser; Monsieur Courbet, the Royal Chef; and Richard Ellis, the King's Royal Dresser. The Downton servants are affronted by the royal household's arrogance. Upstairs, Lady Mary Talbot, the Crawley's eldest daughter who oversees the estate, believes that butler Thomas Barrow is unable to manage a royal visit. She asks Mr. Carson, Downton's retired butler, to temporarily resume his former duties. Barrow, upset, protests strongly but steps aside. Robert is impressed by Barrow's principled stand and dismisses Mary's suggestion that he be sacked. Downstairs, assistant cook Daisy delays planning her wedding to footman Andy Parker, unsure he is the right man. Andy, jealous when a plumber flirts with Daisy, reacts angrily and damages the newly repaired boiler.
A man calling himself Major Chetwode arrives in Downton Village. He seeks out the Granthams' son-in-law, Tom Branson, who assumes Chetwode is a detective assessing security for the royal visit. Prior to the royal parade starting through Downton Village, Chetwode goes to where the King is awaiting the Royal Artillery, unaware that Tom, now suspicious, is trailing him. As Chetwode aims a pistol at King George, Tom tackles Chetwode, pinning him to the ground. Lady Mary, following Tom, kicks the weapon away. The real royal detectives arrest Chetwode, an Irish Republican sympathizer who believed erroneously that Tom was an ally.
The royal entourage immediately takes over the Downton household, displacing the downstairs staff. As the visit progresses, Tom and Lucy Smith, Maud's maid, form a mutual attraction and agree, eventually, to write to one another. Bertie and Edith Pelham, the Marquess and Marchioness of Hexham, have also arrived at Downton; Edith being the younger Crawley daughter. The King informs Bertie that he is to accompany the Prince of Wales on a three-month Tour of Africa. The news distresses Edith, who is pregnant and expects that she will give birth just as Bertie is departing on the tour. In the garden, Tom encounters a sobbing young woman, unaware she is Princess Mary. He initiates a conversation which inspires the Princess to stay with her husband. Meanwhile, Anna discovers that Miss Lawton has been stealing objects from Downton Abbey. She confronts Lawton, demanding that she return the items, then blackmails her into altering Lady Edith's ballgown by the next day, as the wrong garment has been delivered to Downton.
Anna and John Bates unite the staff into retaking control downstairs and defending Downton Abbey's honour, though Mr. Carson is reluctant, initially. Barrow, along with Mr Ellis, implements the plan, employing a ruse to trick most royal household staff into returning to London. Anna slips a strong sleeping aid into the royal chef's tea, and Mr. Wilson is "accidentally" locked inside his room, allowing Mrs. Patmore to cook and Mr. Carson and the Downton footmen to wait at table. When the King praises the revised menu, Molesley stuns everyone by responding impulsively that Mrs. Patmore prepared the dinner, and the Downton staff is serving it. Robert apologises for Molesley's outburst, but the Queen compliments the meal and says they are accustomed to people behaving strangely around them.
That same evening, Barrow and Ellis go to York. While Ellis visits his parents, Barrow waits at a local pub where he is approached by a man who invites him to a secret nightclub for homosexual men. Almost as soon as Barrow arrives, police raid the club, arresting everyone. Ellis discovers what happened and uses his influence as a Royal Household member to secure Barrow's release. After, the two men develop a bond, and Ellis later gives Barrow a memento, trusting that they will meet again.
As the conflict over Maud's estate escalates, Isobel, Lady Merton, surmises correctly that Lucy is Maud's secret illegitimate daughter. Maud has named Lucy her heir out of love. Violet is understanding when told the facts, but schemes to unite the two households through Lucy and Tom. Henry Talbot, Mary's husband, arrives home in time to accompany the family to Harewood House with the royal party. Princess Mary informs her parents that Tom influenced her decision to save her marriage, prompting the King to tell Tom that he has more than one thing to thank him for. The King has also been persuaded to release Bertie from the imminent tour.
During the ball at Harewood, Lady Mary queries her grandmother privately, regarding her recent trip to London. Violet confides that medical tests show she may die soon. Violet assures a distraught Mary that Downton's legacy will be safe in Mary's hands. Lucy enters the ballroom, bringing Maud a handkerchief as a pretence, to watch the dancing. Tom later finds Lucy out on the terrace and dances with her. Back at Downton, Daisy, impressed by Andy's strong feelings for her after admitting that it was he who damaged the boiler, out of jealousy, is ready to plan their wedding. Mr Carson and Mrs. Hughes discuss Downton's future. Carson asserts it will stand for another hundred years with the Crawley family still in residence.
- Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham
- Laura Carmichael as Edith Pelham (née Crawley), Marchioness of Hexham
- Jim Carter as Charles Carson
- Raquel Cassidy as Phyllis Baxter
- Brendan Coyle as John Bates
- Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot (née Crawley)
- Kevin Doyle as Joseph Molesley
- Michael C. Fox as Andy Parker
- Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates
- Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot
- Harry Hadden-Paton as Bertie Pelham, 7th Marquess of Hexham
- Robert James-Collier as Thomas Barrow
- Allen Leech as Tom Branson
- Phyllis Logan as Elsie Hughes
- Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham
- Sophie McShera as Daisy Mason
- Lesley Nicol as Beryl Patmore
- Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
- Imelda Staunton as Maud, Lady Bagshaw
- Penelope Wilton as Isobel, Lady Merton
- Mark Addy as Mr Bakewell
- Max Brown as Richard Ellis
- Stephen Campbell Moore as Major Chetwode
- Richenda Carey as Mrs Webb
- David Haig as Mr Wilson
- Andrew Havill as Henry, Viscount Lascelles
- Geraldine James as Queen Mary
- Simon Jones as King George V
- Susan Lynch as Miss Lawton
- Tuppence Middleton as Lucy Smith
- Kate Phillips as The Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles
- Douglas Reith as Richard, Lord Merton
- Philippe Spall as Monsieur Courbet
- Oliver and Zac Barker as Master George
- Fifi Hart as Miss Sybbie
- Eva and Karina Samms as Miss Marigold
The original television series, Downton Abbey, ended in 2015, after 52 episodes with its final episode set at New Year's Eve, 1925. In April 2016, it was revealed that a film adaptation was being considered, with Julian Fellowes working on an outline plot. A script was distributed to original cast members early in 2017.
On 13 July 2018, the producers confirmed that a feature-length film would be made, with production commencing mid-2018. The script was written by Fellowes. The producers are Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge and Fellowes. The film is distributed by Focus Features and Universal Pictures International. In late August 2018, it was reported that Brian Percival had stepped down as director and Michael Engler took on this job. Percival, in addition to Nigel Marchant, would be an executive producer.
The plot of the film is based on an actual trip by the British royals to Wentworth Woodhouse in 1912 in order to demonstrate the importance of the monarchy. The estate itself was used as part of the shooting locations because of the story's link to that history.
Original cast members including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Maggie Smith, were confirmed to return as their characters from the series, with Joanne Froggatt confirming her involvement in a separate announcement. Lily James, who played Lady Rose MacClare, stated she would not be reprising her role for the film, as did Ed Speleers who played footman Jimmy Kent.
An August 2018 announcement indicated that newcomers Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James, Tuppence Middleton, Simon Jones, David Haig, Kate Phillips, and Stephen Campbell Moore would be among the cast of the film. The producers told the news media that Simon Jones and Geraldine James play the King and Queen, respectively (although not shown in the trailer), while David Haig appears as the King's butler.
In September 2018, it was confirmed that Matthew Goode, who played Lady Mary's husband Henry Talbot in the final series, appears only briefly due to other commitments, while Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Kevin Doyle, Harry Hadden-Paton, Rob James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol and Penelope Wilton were confirmed to be reprising their respective roles, with Max Brown joining in a new, undisclosed role.
Costumes were designed by Anna Mary Scott Robbins working with John Bright of the costume company COSPROP in London, which specializes in historic, period costumes. The company has some of Queen Mary's real wardrobe, studied for details of construction. Geraldine James' Queen Mary costume was constructed using material from one of the Queen's actual dresses. During the Ball scene, both Michelle Dockery and Elizabeth McGovern wore vintage dresses that were embellished with additional work. Dockery's beaded French gown had beads lengthened to the floor by hand. While Michelle Dockery wears Swarovski crystals in her tiara, Maggie Smith's is a 19th-century platinum piece  from Bentley & Skinner of Piccadilly jewellers by Royal appointment with 16.5 carats of diamonds. Smith's ball gown was found in a vintage shop in Paris and dye was used to alter the turquoise color to lilac.
Principal photography started in London in late August 2018. By 20 September, some filming was under way at Highclere Castle, Hampshire, which had been the main location for the television series. Also in September, filming was under way in Lacock, Wiltshire, with Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery as well as two new cast members, Imelda Staunton (wife of Jim Carter) and Geraldine James; scenes shot in Lacock included a celebration with horses from the Royal Artillery. Exterior scenes set in York were filmed on location at Beamish Museum, complete with operational trams. The Heritage Railways scenes were filmed on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway with Pickering terminus representing Kings Cross. The Royal Mail Sorting Office Coach was borrowed from the Great Central Railway at Loughborough. Filming concluded in November 2018.
A companion book and guide to the feature film was available for pre-orders as early as August 2019 to be published on 17 September, that is a behind the scenes look at the film production. The film was released in Australia on 12 September 2019, in the United Kingdom on 13 September 2019, and in the United States on 20 September 2019. It premiered at Leicester Square on 9 September 2019.
Several weeks before its release in the United States, Fandango announced Downton Abbey's first day advanced ticket sales were pacing ahead of all other adult dramas in 2019, including Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ($41.1 million debut that July). A week prior to its release the film held advanced screenings, where it made $2.2 million. Overall, it was originally projected to gross $16–25 million from 3,076 theaters in its opening weekend. After making $13.8 million on its first day, including $2.1 million from Thursday night previews, estimates were raised to $31 million. It went on to debut to $31 million, topping the box office and marking the largest opening in Focus Features' history. The film made $14.5 million in its second weekend, finishing second behind newcomer Abominable, then $7.9 million in its third, finishing third.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 85% based on 218 reviews, with an average rating of 6.94/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Downton Abbey distills many of the ingredients that made the show an enduring favorite, welcoming fans back for a fittingly resplendent homecoming." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on reviews from 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars and a 72% "definite recommend."
June Thomas writing for Slate praised the film, writing: "The plot of the Downton Abbey movie is brilliant, not so much because it is surprising, but because it allows every member of the cast to do what we expect of them." In a more lukewarm reaction, Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, said: "The Downton Abbey movie is not as spectacularly star-studded as Gosford Park, but it's got its share of A-list talent, however: Maggie Smith, of course, as the dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham (absent-mindedly fondling his retriever at breakfast) – there's also Imelda Staunton in a new role and Jim Carter as the beetle-browed former butler Mr Carson. All are very underused".
Writing in the British publication Radio Times, Eleanor Bley Griffiths writes that Downton the film is "frankly disappointing". She explains that "What the film lacks is any sense of real jeopardy. As we found out from the trailer, the big plot-line is this: the King and Queen are coming to dinner and Downton must be made perfect! But that simple story is stretched out to a full two hours of incredibly low-stakes, predictable drama with an overabundance of sub-plots". Griffiths goes on to unfavourably compare the TV series with the new film: "On TV, there was time to explore different threads and highlight specific characters as the series went on; but the movie gives us a whole series-worth of storylines draped over one lacklustre main plot".
The cast and crew were featured in a short interview segment on PBS public television on 20 September 2019, as recognition of the influence which the film and related series have had on American popular culture.
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- Fellowes, Jessica (2014). A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-4668-7221-9.
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