Would a Downton Abbey film see Dowager Countess killed off?
Dame Maggie Smith predicts her character will 'croak it' at the start of any future Downton movie
Since it ended its TV run on Christmas Day 2015, fans of Downton Abbey have been buoyed up by rumours that the show's creator Julian Fellowes is planning a film version of the upstairs-downstairs drama.
Now Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham, has suggested that if Downton does make it to the big screen her character will be killed off without even making an appearance.
Digital Spy reports that the veteran actress stunned an audience by suggesting a Downton film could begin with the Dowager Countess's funeral. "I could croak it, and [the film] would just start with the body," she told last week's BFI & Radio Times Television Festival.
Asked if she was enthusiastic about the prospect of a movie, the 82-year-old actress criticised Downton's "meandering" plotlines and told the audience: "I just think it's squeezing it dry, do you know what I mean?"
Smith is the latest in a long line of cast members to speculate about a Downton film. The Sun reports that Jeremy Swift, who plays butler Septimus Spratt, recently revealed that the movie is set to be made later this year, although a date "hasn't been locked down yet".
Phyllis Logan, aka Mrs Hughes, added fuel to the fire in March when she told ITV's Good Morning Britain "the will is definitely there" to transfer the period drama to celluloid.
And Jim Carter – Mr Carson – has confessed that the cast have been asked to keep themselves available for dates in the future.
Julian Fellowes is central to the success of any future project. As far back as 2016, he told Good Morning Britain he would love to make the movie. "As far as I am concerned, I am completely up for it," he said, adding: "Most of the cast are up for it."
Meanwhile Downton may not be completely lost to the small screen. The Sun reports that Fellowes was planning a prequel involving a different cast "so you went right back and had the young cast arriving in the show as footmen and Mrs Patmore being a kitchen maid."