Why 'Downton Abbey' star Hugh Bonneville would never have a film crew in his home (exclusive)

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Watch: The cast of Downton Abbey: A New Era on sharing their home with a film crew

The latest cinematic outing for Downton Abbey sees Hollywood taking over the home of the Crawley family. But some leading members of the cast have given the idea of a movie crew in their own homes a big thumbs down.

Downton Abbey: A New Era star Bonneville’s response to the idea of a film crew taking over his real-life Sussex home is much the same. “Never in a million years!” was his emphatic answer when Yahoo spoke to the cast ahead of the film’s release this week.

He went on to acknowledge that, while the fee might be tempting, "the idea of having a hundred people trampling all over your furniture... would put me off.”

Laura Carmichael, Samantha Bond, Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith on the set of Downton Abbey: A New Era (Ben Blackall/Focus Features)
Laura Carmichael, Samantha Bond, Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith on the set of Downton Abbey: A New Era. (Focus Features)

In Downton Abbey: A New Era, the nation’s favourite aristocrats are approached by a film director about their home being the location for his latest movie — and with the roof in dire need of repair — there’s only one answer.

Read more: Hugh Bonneville updates on Paddington 3

The scene is set for the imposing residence to be taken over by the cast and crew and, while Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is delighted at the prospect, the Earl of Grantham (Bonneville) is less than enthusiastic.

Samantha Bond stars as Lady Rosamund, Douglas Reith as Lord Merton, Harry Hadden-Paton as Lord Hexham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Hexham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Talbot, Penelope Wilton as Lady Merton, Robert James Collier as Thomas Barrow and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release.  Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC
The cast of Downton Abbey: A New Era. (Focus Features)

Co-star Penelope Wilton felt the same as Bonneville, especially as her home is smaller. “I don’t live in a house as big as Downton, you’ll be surprised to hear!” she smiled. And the thought of around 45 people walking through just didn’t appeal to her.

Highclere Castle in Hampshire, owned by the Earl of Carnarvon, has been the imposing location for the TV series and both films since Downton Abbey first arrived on our screens in 2010. And Bonneville recalled how the series helped the owners with the upkeep of the property.

“I think their roof is going to be safe for some time to come. I remember talking to the butler after we came back for the second season and he said that in the first year they had sixty tourist coaches while we were filming.

"By the time we came back for the second year, there were six hundred. And it’s grown even more since.”

Watch a trailer for Downton Abbey: A New Era

Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, one of the Earl of Grantham’s daughters, was certain she wouldn’t want a movie crew in her home either.

“There is a scene where Hugh Dancy, who plays the director, comes to scout the location,” she explained.

Read more: Maggie Smith had her own Covid bubble on Downton

“Simon Curtis, our director, gave him a note that he should just storm in and not wait for anybody to open the door for him. And that’s what happens with film crews. You come into a location like you own it, you knock things over. I think the Carnarvons are going to watch this film and relate to Lady Mary’s panic.”

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Penelope Wilton stars as Isobel Merton and Maggie Smith as Violet Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release.  
Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC
Penelope Wilton stars as Isobel Merton and Maggie Smith as Violet Grantham. (Focus Features)

Both Bonneville and Carmichael have been in Downton Abbey since the start, alongside many other regulars including Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter and Robert James Collier.

Created and written by Julian Fellowes, the ensemble drama with its upstairs/downstairs format echoed his Oscar-winning screenplay for Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2001) and was an instant hit with audiences and critics alike.

Running for a total of six seasons, the show won numerous accolades, including 15 Primetime Emmys, 2 BAFTAs and 4 Screen Actors Guild awards. It also launched the careers of Dan Stevens, Lily James and Jessica Brown-Findlay.

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Actors Allen Leech and Tuppence Middleton on the set of DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era, a Focus Features release.  
Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2022 Focus Features LLC
Allen Leech and Tuppence Middleton on the set of Downton Abbey: A New Era. (Focus Features)

The series traced the story of the Crawleys between 1912 and 1925 against the backdrop of historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the First World War, but with the family’s own celebrations and tragedies taking centre stage. Perhaps the most memorable was the death of Lady Mary’s husband, Matthew Crawley (Stevens) who was tragically killed in a car accident at the end of season three.

Its first big screen outing arrived in cinemas in 2019. Downton Abbey boasted the same familiar cast and characters, together with guest appearances from Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton, in a storyline that saw the family pay host to a visit from King George V and Queen Mary.

Read more: Julian Fellowes to adapt Wind In The Willows

Both actors return in this sequel, with Middleton’s character, Lucy, marrying into the family. And, while the film crew are back at Downton, they head to the South of France with the Earl of Grantham and other members of the family to visit a villa which has been mysteriously bequeathed to The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith).

Downton Abbey: A New Era is released in UK cinemas on 29 April. Watch a recap of the story so far.