EXCLUSIVE: It’s official, the Downton Abbey movie is a go. Focus Features has set production with Carnival Films to begin this summer for a return to all things Crawley. The original principal cast, including Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and more, are set to reprise their upstairs/downstairs roles with Focus and Universal Pictures International distributing.
Creator Julian Fellowes has written the film’s screenplay and will produce alongside Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge. Brian Percival (The Book Thief), who directed the series’ pilot, will helm the film. Nigel Marchant will also return to executive produce.
The game-changing Downton Abbey followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them for six seasons on the UK’s ITV and PBS’ Masterpiece in the U.S., garnering a massive worldwide following and helping to kick-off the so-called new golden age of television while making period drama chic again — we also learned terms like “entail” and, famously, mused “what is a weekend?” The series won three Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmys (out of 69 nominations in total) and a special BAFTA. Downton is the most nominated non-U.S. television show in the history of the Emmys.
Story details are being kept under wraps for now. The drama had its fair share of sad season conclusions from the outbreak of World War I to Matthew’s death by car crash. But turns of events as the post-Edwardian clan rang in 1926 in the 2015 series finale kept things cheerful with Edith marrying — and outranking her entire family; Mary expecting her second child; Anna and Bates welcoming their first; Tom and Henry christening their fancy new car dealership; Robert accepting Cora’s role outside the house; Isobel and Lord Merton in wedded bliss; and more blossoming romance for the downstairs crew: Mrs Patmore & Mr Mason, Daisy & Andy, Baxter & Molesely… Also notable and emotional was the resolution of Thomas’ arc from footman-you-love-to-hate, to tortured soul, and finally a place of honor on the Grantham estate — which even a somewhat humbled Carson couldn’t argue.
Not every recurring character we’ve seen over the years will feature in the film, although Highclere Castle will return as the family’s hub.
Gareth Neame, Carnival’s Executive Chairman and the film’s producer said, “When the television series drew to a close it was our dream to bring the millions of global fans a movie and now, after getting many stars aligned, we are shortly to go into production. 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.”
Focus chairman Peter Kujawski adds, “Since the series ended, fans of Downton have long been waiting for the Crawley family’s next chapter. We’re thrilled to join this incredible group of filmmakers, actors and craftspeople, led by Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, in bringing back the world of Downton to the big screen.”
The Downton Abbey movie is a Carnival Films production, with Focus Features and Universal Pictures International distributing. A release date has yet to be announced.