Hollywood glamour descends on Downton Abbey in Julian Fellowes’s vastly anticipated second spin-off movie from his hit TV collection – and who higher to sprinkle her stardust on it than Elizabeth McGovern?

Oscar-nominated in 1981 on the age of simply 20 for her position in Ragtime and as soon as engaged to Brat Pack actor Sean Penn, she was the toast of Tinseltown till she married British movie director Simon Curtis and moved to England within the Nineties.

The movie, A New Period, comes two years after the primary Downton movie through which the Crawleys obtained a go to from King George V and Queen Mary and follows the household as they address an invasion of movie stars taking up their grand home to make a film. ‘You see this conflict of cultures when Hollywood meets Downton,’ says Elizabeth, who’s performed the Countess of Grantham because the TV collection first aired in 2010. 

‘It is simply pleasant and the visitor actors are unbelievable. It is such an escape. ‘As a result of the household need to make some cash, they permit the home for use as a movie set, however they’re fairly shocked after they’re invaded by the film enterprise. 

Elizabeth McGovern (pictured) who has performed Countess of Grantham because the TV collection of Downton first aired in 2010, is returning to screens within the second movie

‘The movie is about in 1928, 9 months after the primary one, when ‘talkies’, versus silent movies, had been simply beginning to be made they usually’ve obtained all these Hollywood film stars and the director of a speaking film staying on the Abbey.

‘I am going to always remember once I confirmed up on set for the primary time and there was Dominic West as this Hollywood actor with Laura Haddock as a silent display star and Hugh Dancy because the director. They’re having a blast on this film, it is their personas and the humour that they convey to it.’

On the finish of the primary movie, the formidable Dowager Countess, performed by Dame Maggie Smith, revealed that her physician had informed her she could not have lengthy to stay, suggesting she could not seem in any sequel. But she’s again and inflicting extra mischief in A New Period as she reveals that her ‘mysterious previous’ has left her with the possession of a villa within the south of France.

‘The villa she inherits brings us all to the south of France,’ says Elizabeth. 

‘Julian had this unbelievable concept which actually took off because it materialised and I believe the movie could be very humorous. Downton has all the time had a form of murmuring tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, however this movie brings that out a bit extra. There are additionally some very unhappy issues that occur, however I believe something nice needs to be each tragic and humorous as a result of life is like that.

‘Maggie simply has one thing you may’t describe and you’ll’t pretend. It is one thing very deep in her psyche that is so compelling. She will take what could be a really peculiar piece of writing and provides it such gravit as and humour that it makes everybody’s job round her really easy due to what she brings.

‘I do not assume she’s even acutely aware of it on any degree actually, and that is partly as a result of she carries together with her all these years of expertise, like working with Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. It seems like they’re within the room with you.’

As for Elizabeth’s on-screen daughters, Michelle Dockery’s Girl Mary and Laura Carmichael’s Girl Edith, she has loved watching them develop up over the seasons.

Elizabeth said there's a joyous environment on set because the core cast has worked together for so long. Pictured: Lord and Lady Grantham travel to the south of France in the new film

Elizabeth stated there is a joyous setting on set as a result of the core forged has labored collectively for therefore lengthy. Pictured: Lord and Girl Grantham journey to the south of France within the new movie

‘I keep in mind the innocence of after we began filming. I keep in mind Laura being actually blown away by this restaurant close to the place we used to shoot as a result of, to her, it was a very fancy restaurant. After which to go from there to 2 years later when she was on the Met Ball in New York with Michelle chatting up Mick Jagger, Laura’s grown up so fantastically and has a lot confidence.’

She says the truth that the core forged has labored collectively for therefore lengthy now makes for a joyous setting on set. 

‘There are all the time jokes and also you begin to have form of your personal language which is usually laborious to translate. Penelope Wilton’s character Isobel Crawley for instance used to say on a regular basis, ‘A lot cattle, a lot care’, which implies the extra issues you’ve got, the extra you must fear about, and that was one thing all of us began saying as a joke.’

Girl Cora is a genteel character, and nothing just like the extra fiery Elizabeth. ‘Cora is constant and really gracious about watching her daughters take off and develop and develop. However she’s a type of characters we will rely on to have an outsider’s view of the entire set-up as a result of, as an American, she appears to be like at it with totally different eyes.

I would not have been as forgiving as Cora 

‘So I did not have to work very laborious as an American within the UK to grasp that. I discover the aristocracy very mysterious, why anyone cares a couple of title and all of that,’ she says.

She even admits to desirous to wring Lord Grantham’s neck for being such a pompous snob. ‘I do not assume I might have been practically as forgiving as Cora and there have positively been occasions over time once I’ve needed to do this,’ she laughs.

 ‘I am all the time utterly amazed by what Hugh Bonneville brings to that half in comparison with what’s on paper when he generally looks like such an fool. 

‘Then you definitely see how Hugh brings all his coronary heart and heat and humour and character and provides his character a lot extra depth than he might need. Hugh and I are actually totally different individuals however I’ve all the time felt  with him that, regardless of that, I am utterly revered – and I hope he feels the identical about me.’

Elizabeth is on stage in London as Hollywood star Ava Gardener, in a play she wrote based on the book The Secret Conversations by the late Peter Evans

Elizabeth is on stage in London as Hollywood star Ava Gardener, in a play she wrote based mostly on the e book The Secret Conversations by the late Peter Evans

Earlier than A New Period is launched, Elizabeth could be seen on the London stage in Ava: The Secret Conversations, a scorching play she has written in regards to the legendary 40s and 50s Hollywood star Ava Gardner. Half reality, half fiction, it is based mostly on the e book The Secret Conversations by the late Peter Evans, who Ava employed to write down her biography when, as a fading star of Hollywood’s golden age dwelling a quiet life in Eighties London, she wanted to usher in some a lot wanted earnings.

From poor Southern farm woman to highly effective Hollywood star, her story is completely compelling. A knock-out magnificence whose heavy consuming and racy love life stored the gossip columns hooked, Ava spilled the beans on her three husbands within the e book, usually to hilarious impact. Mickey Rooney was a serial cheater so infamous that even his mom warned Ava about him.

Bandleader Artie Shaw was ‘a dominating son of a bitch – all the time placing me down’, and of Frank Sinatra she stated, ‘We had been combating on a regular basis. Preventing and boozing. It was insanity. However he was good within the feathers.’


The pandemic has meant there’s been an extended wait than anticipated for A New Period, which had initially been scheduled to premiere at Christmas. ‘Filming the sequel was a whole pleasure as most of us had been in lockdown for a yr,’ says Elizabeth. 

‘After we got here again it appeared like the entire world had turned on its head between the primary film and the second, from the pandemic to Trump to Black Lives Matter, however Downton was precisely the identical. There’s one thing splendidly reassuring about having the sofas, the chairs and the books all in the identical place. 

‘And the most effective half is, proper after breakfast each morning, there’s that stroll as much as the grand home which you see within the opening credit. It is a actually superb technique to begin your day.’

‘I did not get catapulted to the heights that Ava did in her life, however I used to be there in Hollywood sufficient to see first-hand the influence it has on individuals,’ says Elizabeth.

‘And since I’ve had such a protracted profession, I’ve seen it time and again, the truth that no one escapes unscathed from that have.

‘Psychologically it actually impacts individuals. There’s an acknowledgement on Ava’s half that her non-public life created the privileged life she led, however it’s a really sophisticated factor for anyone to promote their non-public life for public consumption. 

‘Her private life was very a lot the fodder for many male fantasy. Inevitably that is painful, embarrassing and hurtful. What I hope is that individuals who come and see the play can have some empathy with how painful and embarrassing that was for her.’

It is laborious to overstate Elizabeth’s personal superstar. She discovered in a single day success in Robert Redford’s directorial debut Odd Folks, which received 4 Oscars, after which a yr later earned her personal nomination for her position in Ragtime.

Throughout the subsequent 4 years, she was starring reverse Robert De Niro in As soon as Upon A Time In America and engaged to Sean Penn.

Certainly the thrill of all of it will need to have been overwhelming? ‘Sure, there is not any different phrase for it. But it surely was simply the job I used to be doing, and it is the one job I’ve ever actually had. I’ve simply considered it as work and I do find it irresistible, but when all of it went away tomorrow I might be OK as a result of I might throw myself into one thing else.’

Had she married Sean Penn, who then went onto marry Madonna, she might need had a really totally different Hollywood expertise. 

‘There is a highway I may have taken, however I made a decision to name it off. It simply felt like we had been on totally different tracks. We had been solely in our early 20s. It might have been nothing wanting a miracle had that turn out to be a lifelong partnership as a result of we had been each actually younger and determining who we had been.’

Elizabeth left Hollywood to go to New York to seem in performs, after which in 1992 she got here to England after assembly British film-maker Simon Curtis, who directed movies My Week With Marilyn and Goodbye Christopher Robin. The pair married and have two daughters – Matilda, 28, and Grace, 23 – and Simon not too long ago stepped into the Downton director’s footwear for A New Period. 

Elizabeth's Downton co-stars Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael

 Elizabeth’s Downton co-stars Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael

‘That is the primary time he is labored on Downton in order that they had been laborious footwear to step into,’ she says.

‘But it surely was unbelievable for me to really feel so happy with him. Once you’re dwelling with anyone you neglect what they’re like after they’re at their greatest, so frankly I did not know what it could be like. I have been doing this present for therefore lengthy now and there are simply so many sophisticated relationships and personalities.

‘However he made everyone so blissful. All these actors which were doing it for therefore lengthy liked what he needed to say and he made the movie his personal. The toughest factor for a director to do, particularly in a state of affairs like this, is put their very own stamp on it. 

No one escapes Hollywood unscathed 

‘I actually really feel that if you wish to know what Simon’s like, you need to see this film since you see his sense of humour, his heat, his love for household and his love for all of the characters that he is truly lived with for therefore a few years by way of me. I used to be actually blown away by him.’

Because the elegant Girl Grantham, Elizabeth is extra accustomed to swanning round in silk robes and adorned with jewels. However offscreen she has an alter ego as a rock chick, fronting a band known as Sadie And The Hotheads who’ve supported Sting on the Montreux Jazz Competition and toured with Mike And The Mechanics.

She writes the lyrics to the songs and says that being on stage together with her band is the place she feels most free. 

‘I imply, it is completely loopy actually. Writing the songs was one thing I did only for enjoyable with no expectations, however it was the primary time I might ever felt like I may truly write as a result of I did not go to drama faculty or college.

‘But it surely was writing the songs that gave me the boldness to attempt to adapt the e book about Ava for the theatre. The play additionally touches on a number of issues I felt I may convey my life expertise to.’ Similar to the brand new Downton Abbey movie then, actually. 

Ava: The Secret Conversations is at Riverside Studios, London, from Tuesday till 16 April, avagardnerplay.com. A New Period might be in cinemas on Friday 18 March.