Shirley MacLaine 'struggles to adjust' to Downton Abbey
Hollywood legend has difficulty with British TV's more demanding shooting schedule
OSCAR-WINNING actress Shirley MacLaine may boast more than half a century of film and stage experience but she still had difficulty finding her feet on the set of Downton Abbey.
MacLaine, who plays Lady Grantham's mother Martha Levinson in series three of the popular ITV show, found the demands of filming a shock to her system, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Director Brian Percival explained that big-budget Hollywood productions work to an easier schedule. "It was a surprise [to her] the amount you're supposed to get in the can every day," he said.
Producer Liz Trubridge said that at times MacLaine struggled to learn the script. "She hated the thought she was letting people down by not getting it, so she worked really, really hard at night to get it right".
Seventy-eight-year-old MacLaine's career goes back to 1955 when she made her debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry. By the time she was 30 she had already appeared in 20 major Hollywood films. MacLaine, whose younger brother Warren Beatty is also Hollywood royalty, starred in such classics as The Apartment (opposite Jack Lemmon) and Terms of Endearment (for which she won her Oscar for best actress).
Series three of Downton Abbey, set in the early 1920s, begins with MacLaine's character, swathed in furs and wearing a magnificent feathered hat, arriving at Downton for the wedding of her grand-daughter Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley.
Her boisterous American persona is completely at odds with the Dowager Countess of Grantham's genteel English ways. In other words, the stage is set for fireworks between MacLaine and Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess.
Gareth Neame, executive producer, said MacLaine was the perfect choice for the role. "The key thing was to make sure we had an actress who was a match for Maggie Smith and that made the list very small."
Writer Julian Fellowes said: "They punch at equal weight. When they're on screen, you want to look at them both".
- Downton Abbey, series three, begins on ITV in September