Living the lap of luxury and/or royalty, in any age, is not going to come cheap. But trying to recreate a bygone era, such as the one shown in Downton Abbey’s big cinematic debut, will definitely run up a bit of a budget when done right.
Out of all the lavish costumes, beautiful sets and every other change made to scale the ITV/PBS hit show up to cinematic heights, there was one expense that was greater than the rest. According to Downton Abbey’s director, Michael Engler, it was the royal parade scenes that really cranked the money wheel on this particular project.
It’s not hard to see why either, as Engler himself ran down the following lot of expenses for me, as I sat down with him on behalf of CinemaBlend. Here’s what he had to say:
Well, the most expensive was definitely creating the whole royal parade, because we did have the actual Queen’s royal troop. So we had to bring them to this part of England for three days, and put up a camp site and mess tent, and stables, and bring veterinarians and their whole crew of people. That, and then have enough hair and makeup and wardrobe people, because every single cast member is in that sequence, and hundreds of extras.
With King George V and Queen Mary heading to the Crawley family estate in Downton Abbey’s return, there’s a lot of hype and pageantry that goes into the big day. Anyone who’s familiar with royal culture could tell you that was going to happen. However, on top of all of those expenses, there’s the fact that for three days, there were hundreds of extras, as well as the main stars of the Downton firmament, all participating in said pageantry.
So you have a large collection of actors, the Royal Artillery and their horses on loan, and all of the support staff involved in making those aspects ready for the camera. And they're all on retainer for three days of shooting. There couldn’t possibly be any more of an expense to the entire endeavor, right?
Wrong. Michael Engler continued explaining the situation by including the following aspects into the total cost of Downton Abbey’s most expensive set-piece:
Everybody’s two hours outside of London, so to bring that many people in every department for a week to shoot that, and put everyone up, and feed everybody, and all that, it’s a big, complicated thing that not many movies would do. It’s like even finding 400 hotel rooms, in an area like that out there, with enough advance that you can get them all, the logistics of it really is like mobilizing an army.
Filming of the parade sequence took place out in the village of Lacock, which provided the perfect period setting for the royal visit’s procession through the world of Downton Abbey. It’s been preserved by the National Trust, as it owns almost the entire village, so that just makes the usage of this location all the more fitting. Though it’s not the first time this particular village has been used for Downton history.
Back in the final season, the second episode saw the Crawleys going off to a fatstock show, and sure enough, the ensuing drama was filmed right in the heart of Lacock. Though, considering the jump from TV to film has made Downton Abbey a bit more grand in scope, we can’t imagine that it was nearly that busy the first time around.
The results of all of the painstaking work and added expense paid off though, as Downton Abbey has been realized for the silver screen in a fashion that only its particular brand of drama and nostalgia could pull off. And leave it to the world of Downton to take that which is familiar and turn it into something grander and more exuberant when the occasion calls for it.
You can see for yourself this evening, as Downton Abbey opens its doors in early showings tonight, with the full rollout taking place tomorrow.