It was never a sure thing that fans of the ITV hit drama Downton Abbey would ever get to see the lives of the Crawley family and their downstairs counterparts on the big screen. Ever since the show went off the air in 2015, fans were wondering and inquiring if there would be a film follow-up, and even the cast was left to wonder if it’d ever happen.
Then, there it was: the moment when everyone realized that creator Julian Fellowes was going to bring his world of opulence and warmth to the movie theater. It was news that hit everyone in different ways, at different times, but the moment the Downton Abbey cast realized the movie was happening was a delight for all to behold.
I was recently a guest at Universal Home Entertainment’s press junket for the home video release of the Downton-oriented film, and when speaking to select members of the cast on hand, I had to ask when they realized the big day had finally arrived. Starting with the case of Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan, the inimitable team that played Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes respectively, the two Downton Abbey cast members talked about what happened when they realized a movie was finally materializing, noting,
Carter: It was a slow burn, really. There had been talk in the air about it, there’d been a lot of enthusiasm to make the film. But until there’s an actual script, until we know the producers have called everyone.
Logan: And dates. Fixed dates as well.
Carter: There was a long build up, and then it happened quite quickly. Then I remembered [thinking] ‘Oh my god, we are!’
Logan: ’It is happening, yeah.’
True to the form of their characters, Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan love to play the stoics to a certain point; which ultimately gives way to a bubbly happiness that you can’t help but smile at. You can feel their enthusiasm for returning to Downton Abbey whenever they’re given a chance to talk about the show, and their excitement for the film was just as infectious.
Considering the Downton Abbey film was rumored several times to have started before the proper production had kicked in, it’s easy to sympathize with the cast and the fans of the series. Thankfully, the enthusiasm that was shown by cast and fans alike kept the idea of Downton Abbey's theatrical debut alive in a persistent enough fashion that Julian Fellowes was able to craft an idea he felt was right for a big screen transfer.
However, as previously stated, the moment that Downton Abbey’s cinematic incarnation felt real occurred in different ways to different cast members. And nowhere is that more realized than in the comparison of Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan’s reaction to that of their co-stars Sophie McShera and Michael C. Fox.
The actors behind Daisy Mason and Andy Parker had a bit of a different, and in a sense more delayed, epiphany when it came to Downton Abbey feeling like a real motion picture. Their story is as follows:
McShera: Probably the read-through, because… it was a tease for a long time. It was like ‘We’re trying, we’re trying to make it.’ We sort of didn’t know if it was actually going to happen, and then it all happened really quickly, didn’t it? So [at] the read-through, we were like ‘It’s definitely happening. We’re all here.’
Fox: Especially since there was a few stumbling blocks along the way. Trying to get that many actors together is going to be difficult, and everyone was there at the read-through. It was massive, wasn’t it? There was about 60-70 people.
Healthy skepticism can only carry a person so far, and when 60-70 people are all in the same room, reading the same script, that’s a pretty sure sign that Downton Abbey, or any film for that matter, has a good chance of hitting the big screen. It was the moment that really cemented the movie as the real deal, as you’ll see in the video below.
From that point, the dance of getting the film shot, making bets on last minute additions that really tied the film together, and the preparation for sequel talk all started to fall into place. Luckily the Focus Features film was a success and we can only hope the magic might happen once again. When a movie like Downton Abbey hits as well as this first film has, the first hint of sequel requests comes swiftly, and there's been plenty of talk so far.
You can bet sequel talk will be piping hot for some time, especially when considering the fact that this movie not only performed in a manner that no one could have predicted, it also set a record for Focus Features’ best opening weekend ever. Which makes the fact that producer Gareth Neame feels executing a sequel would be smoother affair all the more encouraging. But that doesn't always equate to a surefire project, as we've seen with many a franchise in the past.
There's still the incredible number of cast members to consider and they would have to coordinate to put on another event movie of this ilk, meaning noone truly know at this point what the chances of another Downton Abbey film look like, but given what the cast mentioned to CinemaBlend, once the wheels are potentially put into motion, things should move quickly. Like most things in life, and the very subject of the first movie, it'll all be clear when and if that special moment that makes another movie happen arrives.
For now though, you can relive Downton Abbey’s film adaptation at home, as it's currently available on Digital HD, Blu-ray, and DVD for your own personal enjoyment. Considering Downton's history with Christmas, is a pretty fitting occurrence.