It's only been two and a half years since Downton Abbey closed its giant wooden doors to the TV viewing public, and yet it feels like an eternity. Too long since Lady Mary made a snide comment to Lady Edith. Too long since Anna and Bates have gazed adoringly into each other's eyes. But after an excruciating spate of hints then denials then more hints, it's finally been confirmed: the movie adaptation is coming, and could even begin filming right about now. But when is the Downton Abbey movie coming out?
Here's what we know so far. The happy news was confirmed, in very un-Downton fashion, on the show's official Twitter and Facebook accounts on July 13. It received a pretty rapturous response, with more than 140,000 likes and counting, across both social media platforms. According to the posts, production on the film will begin this summer — so, round about now, then? What's more, this is very much a cinematic affair, with not a made-for-TV movie in sight; the tweet specifies the film will be "only in cinemas." Lamentably, there's no release date as of yet, but the Independent speculates, based on the time of production, that "we should likely expect the film to reach cinemas late next year." It'll be four entire years, by that point, since we last heard a quip from the Dowager Countess, but listen: We've made it this far. What's another year and a half?
In even better news, Deadline has confirmed that the original cast is all returning — that's Dame Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess, Michelle Dockery's Lady Mary, Hugh Bonneville's Earl of Grantham, and Joanne Froggatt's Anna Bates (who tweeted her excitement), among many, many more. However, it didn't always look feasible: Froggatt told the Radio Times in 2017, "It’s been tricky. There has been a lot of goodwill from all of us, but logistically, it’s a bit of a minefield," adding, "it’s very difficult to get 22 actors together." Dame Maggie Smith's involvement seemed uncertain last year, too, after she commented that a film would be "squeezing it dry," as the Radio Times reported. Thankfully, it looks like she's been convinced otherwise.
There's one character who won't be returning, however: Lily James' Lady Rose, whose career has skyrocketed since she appeared on the show. And it's not down to lack of interest, either. She told People, "My character Rose moved off to New York, so it would be farfetched to bring her back," adding, "I would have loved to have come back for a scene, but for a movie it can’t be like a Christmas special and it needs to be a focused storyline." According to James, "There was no space for Rose."
So, what will the movie be about? No word on that yet, though the Guardian comments that "it is expected the action will pick up directly from the last season’s finale, which was set in 1926." Things all ended pretty happily for the Downton residents in the finale, as Collider recaps — Lady Edith married Bertie, Lady Mary discovered she was pregnant, and Anna and Bates had a baby — but presumably, the movie will shake that happiness up. Historically speaking, the film will be set in a time period that saw Hitler's rise to power, and the spread of fascism across Europe; as the show has engaged with its historical backdrop before, it's unlikely this context will be ignored.
Producer Gareth Naeme told Deadline, "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."
Personally, I've been hoping that Matthew and Sybil never really did die and that everything since has just been a cruelly extended dream sequence — can you deliver me that, Gareth?