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Can a Downton Abbey movie be successful without Maggie Smith's Violet Crawley?

A new Downton Abbey movie is in the works.

By Rachel CarringtonPublished 29 days ago 3 min read
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Warning: This post contains spoilers from Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Maggie Smith portrayed the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, for six seasons of Downton Abbey and in the two follow-up films. The second film, however, Downton Abbey: A New Era ended with a changing of the guard, so to speak, as Lady Violet passed away with her family surrounding her. Her death brought dismay to the fans of the series who'd fallen in love with her acerbic wit and clever machinations. According to producer Gareth Neame, in a report by the Los Angeles Times, Maggie Smith "only signed on to each season of the series on an annual basis." So her return was never guaranteed each season. To finally have her time come to an end, though, was heartbreaking to the cast, the crew, and the fans.

Downton Abbey intends to continue on, though. According to Imelda Staunton, who played Queen Mary's lady-in-waiting, Maud Bagshaw in the first two movies, a third movie is coming. Staunton told BBC Radio 2 [via Entertainment Weekly] that "there will be the final film." According to The Sun, filming is due to start this summer, and the film should be ready to premiere in 2025. Paul Giamatti, the Oscar-nominee who portrayed Harold Levinson, the Countess of Grantham's brother, has already signed on to return.

Supposedly, all of the former cast from the previous movies will return to this one as well with the exception, of course, of Maggie Smith. There will be a seat empty at the dining room table inside Downton Abbey, and it's only right to wonder just how Smith (and Lady Violet's) absence will affect the film overall. Will there be a time jump so the family's grief isn't a fresh?

There's little doubt that Lady Violet will still be a part of the family, though only in spirit. I can't imagine a Downton Abbey film that doesn't mention the Dowager Countess, but it is even harder to imagine a movie, or any type of Downton Abbey, without Lord Grantham's mother. And though the entire cast played a role in the success of the movies, Smith was one of the main leads of the cast even though she didn't have as much screen time as Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) or Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham).

There is the possibility, though, of bringing Smith back in flashbacks, but it's doubtful that will happen. Series creator Julian Fellowes told USA Today [via Yahoo! Movies] that Lady Violet was 77 at the beginning of the series. So by the time the movies came, she was already in her nineties, and it was "inconceivable to keep Violet around much longer."

While Lady Violet's death makes sense, as it was an eventuality with the movies continuing the series, it's not going to change the fact that she is such a monumental part of Downton Abbey. And she has her own legion of fans, some of whom cannot imagine another movie without her.

So how will this loss affect the new movie? There will be a glaring emptiness. That's for sure, but if the plot is strong enough, and it honors Lady Violet in such a way that still brings her into it, this next movie could be just as successful as the other three. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to leave her out of the storyline altogether. Maggie Smith has been a part of Downton Abbey for twelve years, and that much time needs to be honored. If anyone knows that, it's Julian Fellowes. So while the movie will be different, and Smith's absence will be keenly felt, it still stands a good chance at bringing the fans back together to say one final goodbye.

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About the Creator

Rachel Carrington

I'm an avid writer and reader. I've had over 53 novels published and over 2,000 articles. Here I review movies, TV series/episodes, books, and write about entertainment. www.rachelcarrington.com

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  • Annie Kapur28 days ago

    I've heard about this. I would definitely like to see the new era do its own thing but we have to acknowledge that the older era basically revolved around Lady Violet. I want them to have that kind of central character in the next film to be able to give us a compelling story. A lot of DA requires there to be strong character stories. I don't want it turning into a 'spin-off' or something like that. I hope Julian Fellowes has something up his sleeve because I love DA - the show and movies were great together. This is where I thought about how they should probably give us a series for the new character focus before giving us a film, just to establish the new stories. I worry that this new film will be over-the-top exposition, something more suited to a show. All in all, I am hopeful, but I am also uncertain. I loved your take on this by the way. Great article!

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