Downton Abbey heads to the big screen

The upcoming Downton Abbey movie is expected to pick up in 1926, where the series finale ended things. Cast members and producers of Downton Abbey Michelle Dockery (foreground), with (from left) Kevin Doyle, Susanne Simpson, Rebecca Eaton, Gareth Nea
The upcoming Downton Abbey movie is expected to pick up in 1926, where the series finale ended things. Cast members and producers of Downton Abbey Michelle Dockery (foreground), with (from left) Kevin Doyle, Susanne Simpson, Rebecca Eaton, Gareth Neame, Julian Fellowes, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan and Allen Leech.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON • Yes, a Downton Abbey movie is on the way.

The Crawleys will make a triumphant return to Highclere Castle, decked in pearls and braced for more melodrama, to film a Downton Abbey movie this summer.

You can expect to see Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and other cast members in this new chapter.

Downton Abbey, the PBS Masterpiece hit that followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them at the turn of the 20th century in England, ended to many viewers' dismay in Britain in November 2015, and in the United States in March 2016.

No release date has been set for the production, from Carnival Films, and producers declined to comment on the plot.

However, the Guardian reported that the story "is expected" to pick up in 1926, where the series finale ended things, which could mean that the stars from earlier seasons who were killed would not be returning.

Several stars of the series have publicly spoken about their eagerness for a movie and, once the production was made public, they posted their excitement, including Dockery (who played Lady Mary) and Bonneville (Robert Crawley).

"2019," tweeted Bonneville, likely referring to when the movie will be released.

"The secret's out," Dockery wrote on Instagram.

"Delighted to announce we're getting the band back together," tweeted Joanne Froggatt (who plays Anna Bates). She included a photo of her with Dockery and Smith (Violet Crawley).

While only certain characters will reappear, the creative team behind the movie will include many of the people who had worked on the show.

Director Brian Percival, known for The Book Thief (2013) and About A Girl (2001), directed the series' pilot and will direct the movie.

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes, along with producers Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge and Nigel Marchant, will also return. Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film.

"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," Neame said in a statement.

Set among the backdrop of the family's Edwardian English country home, the show's 52 episodes revealed the nuances of an era in which the aristocracy defined life in England.

The series won 15 Emmys and garnered 69 Emmy nominations; its finale drew about 9.6 million viewers. Audience numbers in Britain reached close to 12 million for several seasons.

The spirit of Downton Abbey has lived on in an exhibition in New York, in a Victorian-era building filled with 55 authentic costumes, props and sets from the show. There, fans can find the servants' quarters, the lavish dining-room table and Crawley family portraits. The exhibition will be open until Sept 3.

"When fans make their way through the exhibition, they are able to revisit the beloved characters they feel so close to," Ms Rachel Czwartacky, general manager of the exhibition, said in an e-mail.

"The film now offers a chance for fans to see what happens to their favourite family next."

In the series finale, which featured happy endings for many of the characters, the iconic Violet Crawley quips: "It makes me smile, the way every year, we drink to the future whatever it may bring."

And the future is bright indeed.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Downton Abbey heads to the big screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe