It’s not every day that I start my morning at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills for a special screening of The Downton Abbey Movie. All of that greatness in one sentence is all that I needed to share my experience with you too.
A group of us met on the hotel’s back patio of Culina. The ambiance was very SoCal meaning the space was intimate and very picturesque. We were treated to pastries from the highly praised Magnolia Bakery (with the win going to their Banana Pudding) along with mimosas, and a variety of coffees and teas.
The purpose for the morning was to screen The Downton Abbey movie and participate in a Q&A with cast members Elizabeth McGovern, Allen Leech and Hughe Bonneville. While we waited for the screening to start, everyone exchanged stories about how they got into the Downton Abbey series. For myself, I was a newbie. I had not followed the series directly but was very familiar with the Downton Abbey series by way of my mother. She’s a huge fan and was my inspiration for covering the film. Watch a series recap here.
I get it now
I loved the film and can understand why it is the global sensation that it is. I’m really big on two things that held my attention, one being quick wit and the other costumes and extra kudos to the incredibly well written dramatic storyline. It painted a very clear experience that most of us have had at some point in our lives; out of town guest. As you’d expect no stones were left unturned as the Downton Abbey castle prepared for a visit from the Royal Family. Albeit brief, it would forever change the good people of Downton Abbey. Everyone had their own expectations of what the visit would and should be like and what details were the most important. Little did they know, the Royal Family would be the best burden and out of town guest, they’d probably ever encounter.
There were so many stories going on at once. Lovers discovering one another, family secrets being revealed, candid conversations amongst rivalry family members and the most emotional end of life farewell that I’ve ever heard. I laughed, I cried and I loved The Downton Abbey Movie.
Afterward we spoke with cast members Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Allen Leech (Tom Branson) and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley) from the series and film. Here’s what they had to say:
Of course, the Royals Know Us
Q: I want to ask about the royals since they were such a big part of the movie. Have you guys had a chance to meet the royals? Are they fans? Have you had any interaction like that to where they’ve seen the movie or you had any feedback?
HUGH BONNEVILLE: 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 LEECH: Kate Middleton.
HUGH BONNEVILLE: Kate Middleton. Yes. [LAUGHTER].
ELIZABETH MCGOVERN: To you.
HUGH BONNEVILLE: Sorry. So she came to the set in our final season. And that was a great day. And yes. She was due to stay for an hour or so. And her detectives were checking their watch because she was there for about three hours because she was having such a good time looking around the wardrobe bus and learning how everything worked. But 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. And we knew that a dignitary was coming to visit sort of by coincidence. Was it a Brazilian or an Argentinean? 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.
What’s going to be in your Downton Abbey heart?
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. And for me, I’ll take this incredible journey that we had over ten years. And the amazing family I have. ~ Allen Leech
Gifts to Downton Abbey Fans
Q: What are three things that you would like audience members to walk away from this after watching The Downton Abbey Film?
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 MCGOVERN: And then come back again.
HUGH BONNEVILLE: Yeah, I think that’s a fair… I think that sums it up, really, isn’t it? 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. And 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.
Downton Abbey Now Playing in Theaters
This fall, the worldwide phenomenon DOWNTON ABBEY, becomes a grand motion picture event, as the beloved Crawleys and their intrepid staff prepare for the most important moment of their lives. A royal visit from the King and Queen of England will unleash scandal, romance and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance.
Director: Michael Engler
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Producers: Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge, Julian Fellowes
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Haig, Geraldine James, Robert James-Collier, Simon Jones, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lesley Nicol, Kate Phillips, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton
Thank you Focus Features for hosting me. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.