Downton Abbey movie creators explain why cast members they "love" couldn't return

Megan Sutton
Photo credit: Jaap Buitendijk

From Good Housekeeping

The Downton Abbey movie has succeeded in reuniting the large ensemble cast who became well known and loved during the six seasons the show aired on ITV.

For the highly-anticipated movie, the likes of Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), and Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates) have all donned their Downton costumes after a break of almost four years, however not everyone could return.

Before the film’s release, it was widely reported that Lily James wouldn’t be reprising her role of the headstrong Lady Rose because there wasn’t space to explore her character’s story, but she’s not the only cast member with that scenario.

Photo credit: Jeff Spicer - Getty Images

Explaining Lily’s absence from the movie to at the Downton movie premiere, producer Gareth Neame said.

“Lily James left the show before the last series, she wasn’t really a core character and besides she’s far too busy.”

He added that other characters including Samantha Bond’s Lady Rosamund were much loved but omitted as the people behind the movie had to be “really focused on who were actually the characters at Downton.”

Speaking about breaking this news to Samantha, Neame remembered:

“I phoned Samantha saying: ‘I think there just isn't something in the script for you, but maybe another time.’

Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images

“We loved all those recurring characters - all of Violet Grantham’s servants, we love those characters as well. But we had to be really focused on the core characters… film would have been four hours long,” he said.

The show’s creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, agreed, telling Good Housekeeping:

“In a film, every character has to have a story and every story has to be resolved, so there is a finite amount of space to do that and I think we have crammed in as many characters as we could that could fulfil that.

“Anyone who isn’t in the film who was in the series, I miss because I love them all but I don’t really think we could have got anyone else in. The lift was full,” he said.

The Downton Abbey film is in cinemas on 13 September.

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