The Downton Abbey movie plans are moving apace and that the indications are that Crawley clan WILL be getting a big screen outing, RadioTimes.com understands.

A production source has disclosed that writer Julian Fellowes remains very keen, “the financing ducks are being lined up very nicely" and that an announcement could be "imminent".

Speculation was fuelled when Jim Carter, who plays Carson the butler, recently revealed that cast members "have been asked to keep ourselves available at dates in the future".

Dame Maggie Smith is expected to return as the waspish Dowager Countess in the film, alongside Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith and Lily James as Lady Rose.

Hugh Bonneville is also reported to be on board, but is said to have told the producers that he wants his name on the credits not to appear alongside the famous dog’s bottom as they have in the TV show.

His billing in the opening credits of the ITV series became something of a running joke, as for the six years the show was on air his name appeared alongside the back end of a Labrador.

"Someone up there hates me," he once joked of the opening titles.

Penelope Wilton, AKA Downton Abbey’s Isobel Crawley, says she would be very much up for a possible Downton Abbey film if writer Julian Fellowes turns his hand to one.

“Definitely,” the actress told RadioTimes.com when asked last year. “It would be silly not to say yes.”

There has been talk of a possible movie spin-off ever since the ITV drama finished at Christmas 2015 with the end of series six.

Writer Julian Fellowes has spoken positively about a film and even a Downton spin off, teasing that one area that could feature would be Branson and Henry’s car business in the Roaring 1920s.

He also also added that a Carson and Mrs Hughes series could work, following them as they ran a B&B hotel.

On the possible film, Fellowes has said that there was still a chance it could be made.

"I hope there'll be a film; I don't want to be mysterious. I mean, I completely support the idea of a film. But, of course, logistically, it's quite complicated," he said.

“One of the reasons why it would be difficult to make a movie is because there needs to be a reason why all the characters would be back. Not to mention that it might be hard to get the actors to return, especially since a lot of them have moved on to other projects.

“The thing about Downton is we have a lot of running characters and we really do need them for the movie, so you can imagine at the end of the show they all shot off into shows on Broadway, series in LA, things on television... and they somehow have to gradually be coaxed back into the fold.”  

Another person who would welcome the news is producer Laura Mackie, who was one of the people who commissioned Downton’s first series in 2010 when she was at ITV.

Mackie, whose drama Unforgotten is now enjoying its second series on ITV, told RadioTimes.com: “I would be very proud to see a series we commissioned for ITV on the big screen, it would be brilliant. I am sure Julian at the team would not go down the movie road if they didn’t think there was a story to tell.”