All our old favourites from the ITV series returned for the Downton Abbey film, including Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Downton, Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates and Dame Maggie Smith as the ever-cutting Dowager Countess (reportedly, the last cast member to sign up).
Laura Carmichael returned as Lady Edith, Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore, Allen Leech as Tom Branson, and Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora.
The main cast also returned with Rob James-Collier (playing Thomas Barrow), Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes), Brendan Coyle (Mr Bates), Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason), Penelope Wilton (Lady Isobel) and Jim Carter (Mr Carson) all starring.
Carter’s real-life wife, Imelda Staunton, joined join the cast as Lady Bagshaw.
The actor revealed to RadioTimes.com that the pair shared a couple of scenes together around Downton’s famous dining table but not much more. “We didn’t have any dialogue together or anything like that, but it was nice to get in the car and go to work together.”
“She enjoyed it enormously,” he added.
Newcomers to Downton also include Killing Eve’s David Haig (playing the royal butler), Geraldine James (Queen Mary), Kate Phillips (Mary, Princess Royal), Stephen Campbell-Moore (in an undisclosed role) and Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith).
Middleton has revealed her new character shares a romantic storyline with one of the Downton favourites – expected to be widower Branson. “There’s this whole new group of people that come in, and the Downton regulars have to manage all these new personalities. And she also possibly has a little love story with someone,” she teased to Harpers Bazaar.
One person who didn’t return, however, was Lily James as Lady Rose. She told People magazine: “My character Rose moved off to New York, so it would be far-fetched to bring her back. I would have loved to have come back for a scene, but for a movie, it can’t be like a Christmas special and it needs to be a focused storyline. There was simply no space for Rose.”
Carter added: “Her story finished in the series. She went off and got married and she sort of disappeared, really. It’s probably just easier – it’s hard enough getting 15 or 20 of us back together, never mind having Lily call in from Hollywood.”
Ed Speleers let slip that he wasn’t involved, telling Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford on This Morning: “I haven’t had the call about that… but Downton was a big part of my life. I met the mother of my children there [wardrobe director Asia Macey], and that place was sort of like a drama school for me in some respects. My career started there and it was a real melting pot with great actors like Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith, it was a great place for me to learn. That was a huge part of my life.”
The movie revolves around a royal visit from King George V and Queen Mary.
It’s set in 1927 (a year on from the TV series’ finale). The movie sees Carson the butler, played by Jim Carter, summoned out of retirement by Lady Mary to try to restore glory to Downton in the face of a militant visiting royal household.
“It looks like the Buckingham Palace staff – the royal staff – are going to push us to one side,” Carter teased to RadioTimes.com before the film’s release. “A bit of a revolution is hatched.”
The film also saw Lady Mary considering whether to leave the estate forever. However, luckily Anna Bates was on hand to attempt to convince her ladyship to stay.
Meanwhile, Branson got a new love interest, Mrs Patmore defended the honour of her kitchen from a royal invasion, and the Dowager Countess attempted to bend the knee. It’s quite something.
How did the Downton Abbey TV series end?
A lot happened at Downton Abbey between the death of the Grantham heir aboard the Titanic in 1912 and the series finale in the first days of 1926. So after six series on ITV, where did we leave our favourite (and least favourite) characters?
Lady Mary: Widowed eldest daughter Lady Mary re-married after falling for dashing racing driver Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). He became stepfather to Mary’s young son (and heir) George. By the end of series six Lady Mary was running Downton herself – taking over from her father – and was pregnant with Henry’s kid.
Lady Edith: Finally found her happily-ever-after in the last Christmas special when she married Bertie Pelham, forming a family of three with her illegitimate daughter Marigold. She continued to defy society’s expectations and forged a successful career in magazine publishing.
Anna and Bates: Finally had a baby – a son!
Robert and Cora: After his explosive projectile blood vomiting incident in series six, Robert took a step back from running Downton Abbey and the estate. His wife Cora (Lady Grantham) became hospital president.
The Dowager Countess: Maggie Smith’s character Violet reluctantly ceded her hospital responsibilities to Cora. By this point she must have been about 103…
Tom Branson and Sybbie: Tom and his daughter returned from America to make Downton their home. He and Mary’s husband Henry set up an automobile shop in York – named Talbot and Branson Motors.
Isobel Crawley: Now properly called Isobel Grey, or Baroness Merton, Matthew Crawley’s mother took matters into her own hands when she decided to marry Lord Merton (“Dickie” Grey) against the wishes of his nasty daughter-in-law Amelia.
Carson and Mrs Hughes: The two of them finally got together and tied the knot, but poor Mr Carson developed palsy and had to retire. He was given a generous pension and an oversight role over his replacement, who is…
Thomas Barrow: Survived his suicide attempt, returned to Downton Abbey and stepped into Carson’s shoes as butler.
Mrs Patmore: Set up her own bed and breakfast establishment.
Lady Rose: Went off to live in America with her husband Atticus.
Mr Molesley: Learnt to read, discovered he was actually pretty gifted and left service to become a schoolteacher.
Daisy: Developed feelings for second footman Andy and then went off to live on the farm inherited from her short-lived first husband William.
Downton Abbey movie v TV series
“We’ve been edging towards that with Daisy becoming more emancipated, an education,” he said. “And Anna’s always been strong – she comes on powerfully in the film which is great, it’s good to see.
“The First World War changed everything… People quite rightly started saying, ‘Hang on a minute, do we have to accept the status quo?'”
But one thing remained the same: composer John Lunn returned to score the movie.
Lunn won two Emmy Awards for his music for Downton Abbey, and in a statement revealing his return he said: “At first it was like discovering a long-lost friend, but gradually I realised that we’d never really been apart; by the end it was just such a joy to revisit this material and have the opportunity to take it to a whole new level.”
Record label Decca said: “The score is richly orchestrated, with the familiar title theme making an appearance throughout. In a throwback to the ‘Roaring Twenties’, upbeat jazz arrangements appear alongside lavish waltzes, reflecting the popular styles of the day.”
Will there be a Downton Abbey movie sequel?
No word yet on whether the first Downton movie will spawn a second – or even a return for the TV series. But Jim Carter told us it’s not something anyone is ruling out…
If the film makes lots of money, “I’m sure there will be pressure to do more,” he said. “We don’t know, we don’t have any plans, but… if people turn out and make gazillions – who knows?”