Creating the Downton Abbey storyline and characters for the popular television series was complicated enough, but after the show ended, Julian Fellowes agreed to write and produce a movie version for the big screen, and found the task much more difficult than he anticipated.
Deadline says that Fellowes confided that even though it was nice to have everyone back, in a way, it was peculiar, and the change of format was daunting. The writer and actor did a Twitter Q&A after the launch of the debut trailer for the film which will debut in the United States on September 20.
“I was excited but also quite daunted. They are a different thing; a television series and a movie,” Fellowes explained. “You can take stories across different episodes and do all sorts of things. Whereas in a movie, every story has to be resolved and every character has to have a story. That was a quite a mathematical challenge to get it all fitted in and working for a film.”
Fellowes says that over the last 10 years, he’s grown used to all of the characters on Downton Abbey, and he likes them, so it was nice to return to that world, even if it was just for a two-hour movie.
While some of the actors like Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna Bates, described it as a high school reunion, Fellowes says that it was a bit peculiar to return to Highclere Castle (which doubles as the home of the Crawley family) with everyone dressed as their character, but it was also a homecoming.
“It was very slightly strange to find ourselves back in Highclere and everyone back in their costumes. It was peculiar but very nice,” he said.
He says that the first time all of the characters sat down at the dining room table, it was like everyone was where they belonged.
Fellowes wrote the screenplay, as he had written the television series, and it was produced by Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge, with Michael Engler directing. The writer admits he was always interested in including a royal visit to the home of Lord and Lady Grantham in order to put all of the characters upstairs and downstairs to the test, with everyone “on their best behavior,” and the movie provided that opportunity.
But Fellowes said the thing that made him happiest was that all of the actors were happy and eager to come back.