The Very Cool James Bond Prop That Downton Abbey Creator Julian Fellowes Took From Tomorrow Never Dies But Gave To His Son

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, one of the several James Bond movies that celebrates a milestone in 2022. What some may not know or remember is the fact that the second 007 outing in Pierce Brosnan’s era possesses quite a few connections to the world of Downton Abbey. Among the interesting parties to show up is writer/creator Julian Fellowes, who not only got to spend a day on set as the film’s Minister of Defense but also got a very cool prop that he would end up giving to his son. 

As the promotion of Downton Abbey: A New Era has been getting into high gear, I was able to attend the film’s recent press day on behalf of CinemaBlend. Among the people I was able to talk to was Fellowes himself, who was very insightful about his franchise’s cinematic sequel. However, with such an anniversary being celebrated in the world of James Bond, I had to ask about his experience playing a role in the 18th 007 adventure. In recalling his big scene, Julian Fellowes told us: 

I was very pleased to be in a Bond film. I mean, I was very delighted. I enjoyed it, it was a very nice atmosphere. … All of my scenes were with Judi Dench, which is jolly nice; and I’ve got nothing bad to say about it. Except that I didn’t have enough personal confidence to wear the zip up leather jacket they gave me. So I passed it on to my son.

Whether that jacket was for Julian Fellowes’ big scene in Tomorrow Never Dies or a cast gift after wrapping is not clarified. It doesn’t feel like that sort of jacket would fit in an intelligence briefing between Dame Judi Dench’s M and Fellowes’ Minister of Defense, but maybe that sort of thinking is why this potential prop never made the cut. 

As for the scene itself, it plays as the prelude to the usual briefing that 007 receives from M, and it gives the Jane Eyre alum some rather dramatic moments. In the clip you see below, the scandal at hand is a bit more serious than the Dowager Countess inheriting a random villa, as seen in the trailers for Downton Abbey: A New Era. Without further ado, here’s the actor's big James Bond moment, from Tomorrow Never Dies:  

Yes, the same man who gave M a 48-hour ultimatum to bring down one of the most effective James Bond villains is the one who has brought us the adventures of Downton Abbey. Which only has me wondering if the 1997 movie had somehow inspired Julian Fellowes in his eventual casting of his hit ITV series. Seeing as both Samantha Bond and Hugh Bonneville make appearances in this film, before moving on respectively to play Lady Rosamund Painswick and Robert Crawley in the cast of Downton Abbey, this makes the film quite possibly the most Downton-connected Bond film ever. 

Speaking about his 007 experience, Fellowes also confirmed pretty much what most Bond fans already knew when it comes to EON Productions. More specifically, he spoke about how pleasant the environment of the shoot was, thanks in part to Barbara Broccoli’s leadership. Julian Fellowes rounded off his set story with the following praise: 

A slightly unusual atmosphere, really, because they’d taken over I think it was a car factory, or something like that. And they built all the sets that they were using, interior sets, there. We were quite cut off, we were sort of our own family, making a Bond movie. Barbara Broccoli particularly has this very sort of maternal organizational skill to make a sort of family out of every cast. Which I think is a gift, actually.

A movies set built in a car factory sure sounds like it’s the type of place a person could wear a leather jacket and get away with it. However, the actor had his reservations on the matter and, as a result, his son benefitted from the deal. Whether or not he still has that jacket is a subject for another day, but it’s still cool that Downton Abbey’s creator got to use his background as an actor to help 007 deliver another victory in the name of world peace.

You can enjoy Julian Fellowes’ latest round of pithy dialogue in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Currently open in the UK market, the film debuts in the US through fan events and early shows this week, with May 20th marking the wide theatrical opening. To see what the competition looks like for this societal slice of life, the upcoming movies roster is where you’ll want to go for the latest releases and beyond. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.