(AFP) – Beware, “the British are coming!” Three years after their first film, the famous aristocrats of the “Downton Abbey” series are back at the cinema on Wednesday, with a new opus marked with the seal of mystery and partly anchored in the south of France.
“Each time, we think it’s over but no, here we are again!”, jokes with AFP Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith Crawley, passing through Paris with Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Grantham) and director Simon Curtis for promoting the film.
Highly anticipated by the public, “Downton Abbey 2: A New Era” arrives in French theaters on Wednesday, two days before its release across the Channel. American fans will have to wait until May 20.
Before investing the big screen, “Downton Abbey” was a British series with international success. Broadcast from 2010 to 2015, it was seen by more than a hundred million people in 200 countries and won the American Golden Globes and Emmy awards, as well as the British Bafta.
At the heart of the series, the adventures of a family of aristocrats and their servants from 1912 to the end of 1925. Pinched humor “so British”, cast of choice including Maggie Smith, 87, punchy dialogues: the series brought together all the ingredient to ensure global success.
– Shocking –
It is with this same recipe that the Crawley family entered the cinema in 2019.
For this sequel, the story is set in 1928, a year after the audience left the characters behind. As for the previous film, the screenplay is signed by the creator of the series, Julian Fellowes.
On the program of this two-hour feature film: a cumbersome secret. That of the matriarch of the clan, the ruthless but very endearing Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) who explains, without lingering too long, having inherited a villa in the south of France.
But here it is, this generous bequest comes from an ex-lover…French, to boot! It does not take more to shock the Crawley family who wonders how the venerable matriarch, self-proclaimed guardian of the good morals of the family, was able to maintain such an affair.
To unravel the mystery, part of the clan, as well as their servants, head for the Côte d’Azur. “Let the French be warned: the British are coming!” warns butler Charles Carson, also of the trip.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Channel, Downton Abbey becomes the setting for the filming of a silent feature film, masterfully framed by Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).
These two stories overlap without ever disturbing the viewer.
– Reunion –
“It’s extraordinary how Julian is able to tell so many stories at once, and in a masterful way,” said Elizabeth McGovern to AFP.
For insiders, the film will take on the appearance of a reunion, thanks to the presence of the original cast of the series: Maggie Smith (Lady Violet) Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley), Allen Leech (Tom Branson) or Jim Carter (Charles Carson).
“There’s a real, genuine bond that binds us together, which is almost normal after working for many years together,” says Elizabeth McGovern.
A link that was put to good use by Simon Curtis, husband in the city of Elizabeth McGovern: “When you are faced with actors who know their character so well, everything is easier”.
Note that the cast of the film has been enriched with the presence of the French actress Nathalie Baye and the Belgian actor Jonathan Zaccaï (“The Legends Office”).
Filming, at the heart of the health crisis linked to Covid-19, was a challenge, punctuated by tens of thousands of screening tests and quarantine in France.
Despite this, this shooting was “magical”, reports Elizabeth McGovern: “Sometimes it’s just magic. You hope it will go well and that’s what happened with this film”.