The Downton Abbey Movie had a press conference with stars Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Allen Leech. This was yesterday on the day of the official USA theatrical release September 20th, 2019.
The movie, which is directed by Michael Engler from a script by series creator Julian Fellowes, had a budget of just $13 million. This former television period series has already earned $12.2 million overseas. That includes $7.5 million in the UK alone. At the time of the press conference US previews had also taken $4.3 million. Now the first weekend predictions have been revised to at least $30million. And we have to remember that is amazing given it is against Rambo Last Blood and Ad Astra! All this is good for the fans as surely more movies might follow?
All this put Hugh, Elizabeth and Allen in a happy mood as you can see from our summary of the press conference’s light hearted chat. Here they talk about revisiting characters, real royals visiting and the prospect of more to come…

What are things that you would like audience members to walk away from this movie?

Downton Abbey movie - BTS: Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery
Downton Abbey movie – Actors Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery on the set © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Elizabeth McGovern: Entertained. Reassured.

Allen Leech: Happy. And we want them to walk away as well. We don’t want them to, you know, die in the theaters…

Elizabeth: And then come back again!

Hugh Bonneville: It is to escape from the hassles of our current world. It’s pretty nice and it’s a nice place to go. And you sort of know you’re going to be looked after, because I think the characters in Downton Abbey look out for each other in some way, shape, or form.

I don’t think we need to apologize for that. It’s just pure escapism. And so it’s a nice place to be for a couple of hours.

Period Pieces

Downton Abbey movie - Michelle Dockery and Elizabeth McGovern
Downton Abbey movie – Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) and Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Curvy Critic: [Elizabeth], you were nominated for best supporting actress in Ragtime. And you’ve been doing Downton Abbey for ten years. What is it about period pieces that makes you intrigued as an actress?

Elizabeth: I seem to end up in period pieces quite a bit. But the fact is, I really don’t care about that. I’m really drawn to great stories and great characters. And the fact that they happen to be in that period is irrelevant to me.

I really hope that they spring out to a modern audience as if they are not in the period. And that what’s kind of remarkable is that people in that period are just like we are today. Things really don’t change all that much.

But of course we might be completely wrong!

Hugh: We actually had a historical advisor who was the sort of continuum of that or made sure that these standards were maintained. And there was sort of a house start, wasn’t there, that was established very early on. The women wouldn’t cross their legs and the men wouldn’t put their hands in their pockets. It was simple as that.

And I suppose that did lend it to certain if not grace, then a certain look to the thing.

Revisiting characters

Clarissa Camacho (with Queen Bee Latina): How does it feel to revisit characters that were untouched for almost four years?

Downton Abbey movie - Allen Leech
Downton Abbey movie – Tom Branson (Allen Leech) © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Allen: I think when we read the script, we all had a certain level of trepidation going in. The funny thing is, the minute you start reading the script and then when you start getting into your costume, you realize actually that it’s almost muscle memory.

So it was a really happy discovery for me that it didn’t take a huge amount to get back to being Tom Branson at all.

Elizabeth: You don’t have to think about all those things that you think about when you’re just creating the character to begin with. How do they talk? How do they walk? How do they sit? And since it’s so deeply in our bones, you can just play it. You can just be it.

Perhaps go to a deeper more confident place for that reason. So it’s a luxury because it doesn’t happen very often that you get a chance to revisit a character that has just settled in your bones for years without you even thinking about it.

Reignited

Downton Abbey movie - BTS: Gareth Neame, Julian Fellowes and Michelle Dockery
Downton Abbey movie –
Producer Gareth Neame, writer and producer Julian Fellowes and actor Michelle Dockery on the set © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Karen: What was the atmosphere like when y’all reignited on the set? 

Hugh: I think really the moment that sticks in my mind is when we joined together for the read through.

Now obviously we had six of these events in the past. But there had been a gap of three years. And it was a small miracle that Gareth Neymar, executive producer, had managed to get all of us around the table again.

I do remember looking around the table at this big square, this big old square table that was erected around the studio. And basically having sort of a wry grin on my face. Sort of I can’t believe that we’re here again.

Elizabeth: I feel like we all quietly grew in confidence a little bit in the best way. Like when somebody is quietly more confident, they’re just more fun and more relaxed. I feel like across the board, you could apply that to every member of the cast.

I think that pervaded the atmosphere when we were making the movie. There was a kind of quiet, peaceful confidence that wasn’t brash or arrogant. It was just kind of there.

Play a different Downton character?

Moderator: If each of you had the opportunity to play a different Downton Abbey character for an episode, who would you want to play?

Allen: I don’t think I could play it half as well. But I would love just to be Thomas Barrow for a day. An early Thomas Barrow. Like evil, smoking, have the conniving Thomas Barrow. 

Hugh: I think I would like to play Lady Mary. Because then you can shag a Turkish diplomat, have incredible sex, and then you don’t have to see them for breakfast!

Elizabeth: I cannot follow that answer!

Downton Abbey movie - Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery
Downton Abbey movie – Lady Hexham (Laura Carmichael), Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Liam Daniel

Personal habits

Al Siran Hifo (with Entertainment Voice): Have personal habits changed after embodying these people from another world for so many years?

Elizabeth: It’s made me appreciate the freedoms that we enjoy as women and the power that we enjoy as women, which I might have taken for granted otherwise.

I am so happy at the end of the day to come back to 2019 and know that I can vote, I can control my own money, I can control my own destiny. And we’ve come a long way, baby. 

Hugh: I think just the common courtesies that everybody in the estate is used to expressing. I think they aren’t bad things to hold onto now.

Tough times

Melissa (with Dandelion Women): I went through a tough time. My father passed and my mom and I binge watch for a couple of months. So you guys really helped us through a tough time.

Allen:  Oh, thank you.

Elizabeth: We hear stories like that sometimes. And I can’t tell you genuinely how much it means to us. Because sometimes in the world of show business, you get just so sick of the bullshit.

Favorite line

Melissa: [Did] you guys if you had a favorite line or scene from this movie?

Hugh: I think we all immediately go for one of Maggie’s lines.

Elizabeth: Yeah. We all want Maggie’s lines. Let’s not mince words.

UK and US fans

Angela (with Front Row Features):  What are the differences that you’ve noticed between fans in the UK and fans in the US of Downton Abbey?

Allen: Rob James-Collier summed it up brilliantly when he said in the US, fans will cross roads and risk being knocked down to tell you they love your show. [LAUGHTER].

And in the UK, people will cross roads and risk being run down just to tell you they don’t watch it. Which is very true.

Yeah. So the enthusiasm and the excitement that we experience from American audiences is so refreshing.

Elizabeth: You’re much more comfortable with your emotions.

Downton Abbey Movie - BTS: Allen Leech and Michelle Dockery
Downton Abbey Movie –
BTS: Allen Leech and Michelle Dockery on the set © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Royals

Have you guys had a chance to meet the royals? Are they fans?

Hugh: I don’t know if they’ve seen the movie. But we had a dry run of the film plot, because the duchess of Cambridge came to visit the set.

Allen: Kate Middleton.

Hugh: Kate Middleton, Yes.

So she came to the set in our final season at Ealing. And that was a great day.

She was due to stay for an hour or so. Her detectives were checking their watch. She was there for about three hours. She was having such a good time looking around the wardrobe bus and learning how everything worked.

We also had a couple of visits from the Countess of Wessex. Sophie Wessex came a couple of times incognito. There was one occasion when we were filming outside Oxford I think it was at a house that Winston Churchill for sort of war plans during the war.

We knew that a dignitary was coming to visit sort of by coincidence. Argentinean ambassadors and her entourage were coming to be escorted by the Duchess of Wessex.

Unfortunately, my good lady screen wife didn’t really take all this on board and thought she had met the blonde haired lady in the supermarket recently.

Elizabeth: No. I thought she was an extra wardrobe person that had come on. [I] didn’t recognize her.

Hugh: Okay. So that was Sofie Wessex. Yeah. Just so you know for next time. Member of the royal family.

No wonder she found us so weird when you said, can you sew this part of my dress please!

The dinner scene with Molesley and the ballroom scene. You guys had to have had some moments where you cracked up and they had to like redo the take. You had to. Especially the scene with Molesley.

Hugh: Well, normally those dining room scenes, we can’t wait to get out, because they take a long time, those dining room scenes, for sort of obvious reasons.

That’s the one time that we actually just wanted to stay in the room and see them there, because take after take, he was just sublime.

Downton Abbey movie - Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonneville
Downton Abbey movie – Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Jaap Buitendijk

Allen: It was a lovely moment where Maggie saw him do it for the first time. And she just turned. And there was a bit of applause. And she just turned and went, well, that’s delicious. [LAUGHTER]. And I think it’s a lovely way of describing that moment. Because he’s such a comic genius.

The ballroom was fun. Because obviously I sat on the sidelines and watched these guys do their job. And every so often myself and Imelda Staunton, we would go in and we would give our judging scores. And Dancing With The Stars. We would go in and everyone would line up and then we would walk up and down. And then we go, you guys were the best this time. Well done. And so everyone got to win at different stages. Except for the king and queen. Now that wasn’t Gerald and James’ fault.

Elizabeth: They sucked.

Allen: They sucked. [LAUGHTER]. For royalty, they really couldn’t dance.

Hugh: Over the years, Elizabeth and I have had quite a few dances in the TV show.

Diana Scrivener who is our choreographer has always been very patient, because we often may start at the bottom of the class, but she gives us incentives. It will go little badges each way. And we finally ended up with gold. We were very excited. We got a gold star.

The end?

Do you feel like this is really the end?

Hugh: I think realistically, it’s certainly the end for us in terms of the TV show. Of course there could be, because let’s not forget that the central character is the house. And the house is still standing and will be standing in another 100 years. So absolutely.

Knowing a little bit of the history of Lord and Lady Carnavron’s family, the current earl who lives there, his grandfather was quite a character. And if those walls could talk in the 1960s, that was one heck of a party house. So some fascinating shenanigans would have gone on over the years.

So of course, I think they absolutely could do spinoffs in that way.

In terms of our section of the history, I think if you can just persuade all your friends to go and see the movie, then maybe we’ll do another one.

Allen: Yeah, absolutely. If the appetite is there…

Downton Abbey Movie - BTS: Cinematographer Ben Smithard, director Michael Engler and producer Gareth Neame
Downton Abbey Movie – Cinematographer Ben Smithard, director Michael Engler and producer Gareth Neame watch the drone technician film the house on the set © 2019 Focus Features, photo by Liam Daniel

Selena Hughes: Since everything is wrapping up, what will you take with you? What’s going to be in your Downton Abbey heart?

Allen: I had a very poignant moment with Hugh actually. We snuck in at the New York premier. And we stood at the back of the theater for the last 20 minutes of the movie.

For me, I’ll take this incredible journey that we had over ten years. And the amazing family I have.