January 21, 2014

Hollywood A-listers sing Downton's praises

All about the Abbey: 
Gravity actress Sandra Bullock is a Downton fan

All about the Abbey: Gravity actress Sandra Bullock is a Downton fan
Downton fever is sweeping Hollywood, just as it is the rest of the United States.

Sandra Bullock said she watched the period drama during any free time she had when she filmed the phenomenally successful movie Gravity in England.

During her stay, Bullock said she commuted between a rented house by the Thames at Richmond and Shepperton film studios.

‘It’s an impeccable drama,’ she told me of the series, which is just starting its fourth season in the States.

‘I love the period, the stories, the characters, the actors, the costumes, the houses . . . everything about it!’

We were chatting with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes at a reception hosted by the LA branch of Bafta.

Bette Midler is another Downton addict.

She was due for lunch at the LA home that Lesley Nicol — aka Downton cook Mrs Patmore — has been renting with her husband Da’aboth, who’s a spiritual practitioner. And he’s doing the cooking.

Nicol summed up Downton’s appeal well: ‘It’s like putting an arm around an audience.’

Fellowes, Nicol, Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) were all at the Golden Globes awards, and tomorrow they’ll be joined by Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes) and Sophie McShera (Daisy) at the Screen Actors Guild awards, where Downton is up for best cast.

Then they return to the UK to prepare for series five, which begins filming next month.

Dockery, who was wearing fabulous jewellery sourced by the World Gold Council’s LoveGold experts, thinks Lady Mary’s going to have a fight on her hands . . . with her father.

‘She’s becoming a bit of a businesswoman, and I like the dynamic between her and Robert,’ she told me.

‘She knows how to put up a fight.We’re getting into a period where Downton’s at risk — I think it’ll be interesting to see where that goes, and what she does to try to save it. It’s her birthright, and her son’s,’ she told me.

Fellowes said series five will cover the years 1924-25.

Loyal fans: The fourth season of Downton Abbey continues to win over new fans on both sides of the pond.

‘We’re chugging pretty slowly through the Twenties, because I don’t want them to have to do wobbly stick acting with talcum powder in their hair by pushing on into the Thirties.

‘Also, I feel the Thirties has been much dramatised, with the looming threat of Nazi Germany and so on. I think the Twenties is a much less filmed period — yet I think it’s a very interesting one because it had a foot in both camps: one in the past, one in the future,’ he told me at the Mulberry and Jaguar-sponsored bash.

Fellowes added that as the Twenties wore on, it became clear ‘something had altered in the mind-set. People didn’t want to be servants any more, and people didn’t want to change their clothes five times a day.

‘They wanted to drive around and didn’t want to live in a house the size of a hotel. It was a time of great change and we’ll see a lot of that in series five.’

And series six. And from the way he talked, series seven, though ITV won’t give that the green light till next year.

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