Downton Abbey: The Movie? Rumours have been swirling for a while now, but this latest piece of information is the most telling yet. With Michael Fox (who played valet Andy Parker on the show) stated that ‘The film without her would still be good with all the other actors, but it puts a stamp of quality with [Maggie Smith] in it.’ Did you hear that? Has Maggie Smith signed a contract for the big screen? Does that mean the film is definitely happening?
If Downton Abbey is going to be made into a movie, the Sunday night staple might have to up its game a bit. Here's what we think will give the show a bit of Hollywood punch.
1. Get Clooney on board
Surely George Clooney is the prime candidate for a role in the film, having already starred in a spoof Downton sketch for charity (as 'Ocean's Gravity, The Marquess of Hollywood'). Why not throw a curveball into Lady Mary's romantic life with the Marquess pitching up as a houseguest and making Nespresso eyes at her from across the dinner table.
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2. Introduce a hostage situation
At the end of one memorable Downton series Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) was expecting a telegraph from the King. In the movie version the King - played by Bill Nighy - could visit Violet in person, only to find Downton suddenly fall under seige in a kidnapping plot by a team of working class rebels angry about 1920s agricultural decline. The whole Crawley family, and the King, would be holed up in the drawing room at pistol-point.
3. And that's when you bring in Bruce Willis
A dashing US Naval officer and distant cousin of the Countess, Admiral Tom Baker McMuscles (Bruce Willis) - who just happens to be visiting from abroad that very week - is the man in whose hands now rest the fate of king and Crawley family.
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4. You'll need a lot of slow-mo and explosions (obviously)
The improbable rescue plan unfolds in a high action stunt sequence when Admiral Tom (Bruce Willis) commandeers an Armstrong Whitworth Siskin plane and attempts to leap directly from the unmanned cockpit onto the central turret of Downton to rescue the King (Bill Nighy). Cue slow-mo shots of fireballs as the east wing explodes when the plane hits.
5. Mrs Patmore out, Jessica Chastain in
At the beginning of the movie the arrival of the electric mixer will prove to be the last straw for Mrs Patmore, who hands in her notice. Enter Hollywood's answer to a 1920s British cook, Mrs Hotsauce played by Jessica Chastain. When the hostages take the house Jessica escapes down the laundry shoot and manages to get a message out to Admiral Tom buried in a sack of flour.
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6. There's a dramatic twist
Branson was behind the whole thing! He's secretly still got a chip on his shoulder about that whole class divide from series one and is back from America with blood on his mind.
7. Everyone nearly dies. But then obviously they don't.
In a final, 10-minute action scene, Admiral Tom and Branson drop their guns and end up in fisticuffs on the roof of Downton. In a thunderstorm. A single shot taken by Lady Mary, who grabs the gun as it skitters across the floor, ends the fight. A wounded Branson staggers to the edge of the building, mouths 'I'm sorry' to Lady Mary and falls off.
8. Lady Mary (nearly) dashes her chances with the Marquess of Hollywood (George Clooney)
The King and Crawley family have been rescued by Admiral Tom (Bruce Willis) - who is now making eyes at Mrs Hotmore - and in celebration The Marquess of Hollywood makes a proposal of marriage to Lady Mary. Flustered and confused, she turns him down, only to realise what a fool she's been, but by then he's already left!
9. Then give it the classic Hollywood finish....
The family car has been destroyed in the plane crash so the only way Lady Mary can get to The Marquess before he leaves for America is by jumping on the back of a horse from the Downton stables and bareback riding cross-country to reach him in time. She manages to catch him JUST before the ship's anchor is raised and makes an impassioned speech in front of 150 other sailors telling him she's 'just a Lady, standing in front of a Marquess, asking him to love her.' When they kiss, the room breaks out into applause.
Sounds about right to us. When can we come on board?