The Downton Abbey Movie: Read This Before You See The Film

Since 2016, many of us have been living in a desolate world devoid of new Downton Abbey episodes. U.K. fans have been without Downton even longer, as seasons of the show always aired there months before being released in the States. Wherever you live, it has been far too long since we've caught up with the exploits of the titled Crawley family and their staff of (mostly) loyal servants. What have Lord and Lady Grantham, their children, and their staff been up to since then? Until now, the continuation of their lives and stories were left to the imagination after the show wrapped. 


Thankfully, the show is pulling through for its loyal followers. While Downton Abbey isn't being revived, we are being blessed with a film. Slated for release in September 2019, the world is desperate for details about the project, and we are more than happy to deliver the goods. Be warned that there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven't watched all six seasons of Downton Abbey yet, you might want to catch up first. If you're up to date on your Downton Abbey viewing, here's what you can look forward to in the film.

There won't be any ghosts in the Downtown Abbey movie

There was speculation that departed cast member Dan Stevens, who played Lady Mary's husband Matthew Crawley, might appear as a ghost or in a flashback. Stevens himself teased fans that he might make an appearance. In November 2018, he appeared on The Late Late Show with James Corden and said "I can neither confirm nor deny the reports [about being in the film]" he said, after Corden said he'd heard reports that he might appear in a flashback.


Stevens himself might have been responsible for the reports Corden claimed he'd heard. In August 2018, he posted an Instagram picture with former Downton Abbey co-stars Michelle Dockery and Allen Leech. The picture was captioned "Should Matthew have a mustache for the #DowntonAbbeyMovie... ?"

Alas, Stevens was just playing with his fans. Shortly after his appearance on The Late Late Show, Downton Abbey star Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs. Hughes, appeared on Loose Women and put the rumors to rest. "Sadly, he's still dead," she said of Stevens' character (via Digital Spy). Stevens himself waited to squash the rumors in February 2019, when he confirmed that he will not be appearing in the film.

This cast member wasn't sold on the idea of a Downtown Abbey movie

Cast member Maggie Smith originally resisted the idea of a Downton Abbey movie. "I just think it's squeezing it dry, do you know what I mean?" she said in a 2017 interview at the British Film Institute (via Telegraph). "I don't know what it could possibly be. It's too meandering." She added that the only way she could envision the story continuing would be if her character, the Dowager Countess, passed away. "I could croak it, and it would just start with the body," she said.


Unlike the show's fans, Smith was happy to see the show wrap up. "It's not riotously funny to be in corsets and a wig from 7 o'clock in the morning until 7 o'clock at night," she told Yours. "We have had a great time making the show... but... the corsets are agony! God knows how they lived in the days when they had to wear them all the time." 

Fortunately, the veteran actress will be squeezing into a corset one more time and blessing us with her witty one-liners in the film adaptation.

This fan favorite won't be making an appearance in the Downtown Abbey movie

Another fan favorite who we won't be seeing in the Downton Abbey film is actress Lily James, who was introduced as the Dowager Countess' great-niece, Lady Rose, in the third season's Christmas special. She moved to Downton Abbey after her parents moved to India. Unfortunately, James won't be in the movie, but there's a pretty good reason for that.


"She can't be; she's in every other film [in] the world at the moment," executive producer Gareth Neame told Entertainment Weekly. James has starred in blockbuster films such as the live action adaptation of Cinderella in 2015 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in 2018.

By the end of Downton Abbey, Lady Rose was living in America and the filmmakers decided it was best to let her character stay across the pond. "Lily is now a big star, and it would've been incredibly difficult for her to find time in her schedule to come and play essentially a supporting role in Downton when her career was in a different place when she was with us," creator Julian Fellowes said.

The Downtown Abbey movie will be set in the 1920s

The Downton Abbey movie is going to take us into the future, but not too far down the timeline. The film is set in the autumn of 1927, picking up just a year and a half after the series finale. While it might have been interesting to see what Lord and Lady Grantham's grandkids look like when they're all grown up, show creator Julian Fellowes has a solid reason for not wanting to set things too far in the future. 


He explained to TheWrap that he wasn't willing to go past the 1920s. "I feel the '30s have been very much explored dramatically, and I didn't really want to get into the whole business of the Nazis, which I think has been explored exhaustively" he said. "And I don't know that there is anything else to be said about the Nazis."

Fellowes added, "The difficulty of dramatizing the Nazis, to me, is that I like ambivalent dramas, where you don't know whose side you're on, or maybe you change sides. ...But the Nazis don't give you that. Nobody's slightly on the side of the Nazis. It's so absolute — there's just bad guys and good guys."

The Downtown Abbey movie could have been a prequel

While the film is starting up not long after we last saw the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, the film could have just as easily have been in a completely different era. One of the ideas Julian Fellowes had for a Downton Abbey film was actually not a sequel, but a prequel. The advantage to this, of course, is that it would have been easier to cast as they wouldn't have had to try to bring together all the original cast members of the show.


At a BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture in 2012 (via BBC) Fellowes said,"I do actually have an idea of doing a prequel of the courtship of Robert and Cora, when all those American heiresses were arriving in London. They had a slightly troubled courtship because she was in love with him before they married, and as we know, he married her entirely for her money."

Fellowes added, "I sort of feel there's something quite nice in there because he's a decent cove, and so he feels rather guilty about this, which has affected their marriage beyond that."

The Downtown Abbey movie is about to get really royal

We don't know a whole lot about what's going to happen in the film, but it's safe to say that it's going to be brimming with drama, heartwarming moments, and, of course, the Dowager's delightful sarcasm. A lot of the drama is likely going to be centered on the special guests the family will be hosting. The official Downton Abbey trailer shows that the house erupts with excitement when they find out the royal family is coming for a visit.


It's not clear which members of the royal family will be swinging by the estate. We'll almost certainly see King George V. We might also catch a glimpse of the currently reigning British monarch, then-known as Elizabeth II, who was born in 1926, the year before the movie takes place — but only if there are cousins tagging along for the royal visit. In 1927, Elizabeth was only distantly in line for the throne as her father, George VI, only inherited the crown after the abdication of his older brother, Edward VIII, in 1936.

Lady Mary is still keeping everything together in the Downtown Abbey movie

What does the film have in store for Lady Mary? As always, the oldest Crawley girl is fiercely independent and determined, and we will be seeing more of her resilience in the movie. "She's embraced her responsibility much more now as she's matured," the actress who plays Lady Mary, Michelle Dockery, told Entertainment Weekly. "As much as Mary is very independent, her loyalty always remains with Downton. ...There's a sense of Mary holding it all together."


We'll also get to see how her relationship with her sister, Lady Edith, has evolved as they've both grown. While the two sisters were often at odds on the show, Dockery said that they'll be much closer in the film. "They're very supportive of one another and they're good friends," she said. "It's nice to see Mary in that way as opposed to being in constant turmoil about her love life."

We'll see Lady Edith adjusting to married life in the Downtown Abbey movie

Lady Edith will also be seeing some big changes in the Downton Abbey film. After spending most of the show unlucky in love, Lady Edith finally got her happily ever after in the show's final season. The film adaptation will see her not just settling into married life but also adjusting to her new role as the Marchioness of Hexham, a position which also means that she now outranks the rest of her family.


"[Edith and her husband] are adapting to being a married couple and to her being a lady of one of these great houses," director Michael Engler told Entertainment Weekly. "It brings with it much more responsibility and protocol than she was raised with at Downton. ...On one level, they're these modern people in their training and expectations, but then, they are in the roles of these very elevated, cultural positions."

You're definitely going to need a box of tissue when watching the Downtown Abbey movie

Downton Abbey has never shied away from sentimentality. The drama has made us cry more than we care to admit over its six seasons, and it's not planning on stopping with the film. The filmmakers are also condensing an entire storyline into just a couple of hours, which means that those sob scenes that were (usually) mercifully stretched out over an entire season will likely be closer together.


What does that mean for loyal fans? It means you're going to need lots and lots of tissues. Or, if you're channeling Lady Mary, a dainty handkerchief (or ten). Allen Leech, who plays chauffeur-turned-member of the Crawley family Tom Branson, told Vanity Fair that viewers should "be prepared for everything" and warned that "you're going to have tears." Leech should know a thing or two about devastating Downton Abbey scenes. He was at the center of one of the show's most devastating moments: the death of his wife, Lady Sibyl, while she was giving birth to their first child.

These characters might finally get their happily ever afters in the Downtown Abbey movie

The Downton Abbey series finale did a pretty good job of wrapping up everyone's storylines, but there are a couple of characters who we'd like to see involved in romantic relationships. One of the servants, Thomas Barrow, saw a lot of character growth over the course of the show, spending much of the series struggling with his attraction to men — something that was taboo during the time period of the show. Promoted to butler by the end of the series, Barrow had a happy ending, but fans were still left wondering if he would ever get his own fairy tale romance. The trailer hints that Barrow does find romance in the movie.


Another character still waiting for his happily ever after is Tom Branson, Lady Sibyl's widower. While Branson had flirtations after Sibyl's death, nothing serious developed. "Look, [a romance] was one of my hopes that I had at the end of the series... and it didn't happen!" Allan Leech told Vanity Fair. "So one would hope that it would happen in the movie."

Everything in the Downtown Abbey movie is going to be on a much grander scale

Fans are obviously dying for details about the long-awaited film, but the cast and crew are keeping things pretty close to the belt. They've dropped just enough hints to tantalize us, but not enough to satisfy the craving for all things Downton Abbey. One thing they've promised is that the film will stay true to the show that we all love, but that it's going to be even more epic.


"The story line has expanded the scale of it," director Michael Engler told Entertainment Weekly. "It takes the things you love about Downton — the romance, the intrigue, the pageantry — and makes it bigger."

That's not much to go on, but Engler promised that the anticipation will pay off. "Making the film felt very much like the story of the film in that all these people came back together, almost 200 people, to make it bigger and better than ever," he said.

The production team thinks it's a good thing people had to wait for the Downtown Abbey movie

The wait for the Downton Abbey film seems like a long one to fans, and the filmmakers are hoping that this will make the film that much more enticing. The executive producer, Gareth Neame has zero regrets about torturing the show's loyal viewers with such a long gap between the end of the last season and the release of the film, but promises that their patience and devotion will be well rewarded.


"If we'd gone straight into production on the movie, it would've been too quick for everyone involved," he told Entertainment Weekly. "It wouldn't have felt special. People are really hungry to be reunited with the characters."

Fans might not agree with Neame's definition of "too quick," but if the movie is as good as the trailer hints it will be, the wait will be worth it.

The cast was thrilled to be back together for the Downtown Abbey movie

Fans aren't the only ones who are excited about the Downton Abbey film. The cast was also excited to get back together on set. "It was so nice to see everybody again," Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Lady Grantham, told Town & Country. "I just absolutely loved it. In so many ways, we all went through quite a life-changing experience together, so it really bonds you to a group."


McGovern isn't the only one who was thrilled to reunite with the Downton Abbey cast. "We're all really happy that it's finally happening, and we can answer the question of will the Downton movie really happen, because it's just been killing us to keep it a secret," Michelle Dockery told Vanity Fair in 2018 after the film was officially announced. "It's been awhile [that we've known]. So it's nice to finally be saying it. And everyone's so excited to go back."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Dockery said that she had always hoped a film would come to fruition. "I always felt that there was unfinished business because it felt that people weren't quite done with it," she said.

The original director for the Downtown Abbey movie was replaced

While the film's director, Michael Engler, is no stranger to the world of Downton Abbey, he wasn't the first choice to direct the film. It was originally announced that Brian Percival, who arguably has a stronger connection to the show, would be helming the project. Percival was involved with Downton Abbey since its inception, directing its pilot episode as well as five other episodes over the first three seasons of the series.


Percival was later replaced with Michael Engler, although no reason for the change was publicly announced. Engler's history with Downton Abbey doesn't go quite as far back as Percival's, but his involvement with the series is more recent. Engler directed four episodes of the show over seasons five and six. Engler has also worked with Julian Fellowes on another of the showrunner's period dramas, The Gilded Age. He also directed a film scripted by Fellowes, The Chaperone.