The Downton Abbey movie is definitely, officially happening. Focus Features and Carnival Films have announced that the beginning of principal photography on the Downton Abbey movie “is due to begin soon,” confirming that the original cast from the TV series are returning alongside new additions Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Geraldine James (Anne with an E), Simon Jones (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), David Haig (Killing Eve), Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game), Kate Philips (The Crown), and Stephen Campbell Moore (History Boys), among others.
Julian Fellowes, who created and wrote Downton Abbey, penned the screenplay for the film and will produce alongside Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge. While it was initially announced that Brian Percival—who directed the Downton Abbey pilot and various episodes as well as feature films like The Book Thief—would be helming the Downton Abbey movie, that’s no longer the case. The press release states that Percival will now executive produce the film, and veteran TV director Michael Engler will be taking the helm.
Engler directed four episodes of Downton Abbey in total, including the Season 6 Christmas Special/series finale, so he’s no stranger to this material. No reason was given for Percival’s departure from the director’s chair, but Engler was an obvious choice as he also directed the pilot for Fellowes’ NBC series The Gilded Age and helmed the upcoming Fellowes-scripted feature The Chaperone. But he also has extensive comedy experience with shows like 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so he’s a pretty versatile guy.
It’s still unclear what story the Downton Abbey movie will be telling. The series came to a close in 2015 after six seasons and 15 Primetime Emmy Awards. It was a true crossover hit, becoming appointment viewing here in the States on PBS and leading to fans lobbying the network to air new episodes of the show at the same time that they aired in the U.K., so as to avoid spoilers. And while the quality waned a bit in the latter seasons, it remains a rich world and I’m curious to see what the feature film brings to the table.
No release date has been announced, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Downton Abbey movie hit theaters during the 2019 holiday season.