Tuesday, July 16, 2024

“Downton Abbey” Creator Dubbed “Rock Star” Among Movie Stars


So you get about a thousand people stuffed in the main ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in West Hollywood. Half of them are movie or TV stars, from Daniel Day Lewis to Jon Bon Jovi, from Sally Field to Anne Hathaway, and everyone wants to meet one guy only: Julian Fellowes, creator of “Downton Abbey.”

The occasion was the annual afternoon “tea” thrown by BAFTA/LA, once a sleepy get together and now the must-be-seen-at event of Golden Globe weekend. And really, getting through a room choked with celebrities from Jacqueline Bisset (herself looking like a rock star) to SAG president Ken Howard, as well as “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell, stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, all the “Les Miz” gang including Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne and director Tom Hooper, not to mention triple hyphenate Ben Affleck, and regal bearing famed actress (and director now too ) Diane Baker–is not easy.

But then, there’s Fellowes, with his wonderful wife, and “Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery (Mary Crawley), the heroine of the British TV soap opera. It’s not like Fellowes hasn’t been here before. “Downton” is largely informed by an Oscar nominated film directed by the late Robert Altman and written by Fellowes called “Gosford Park.” And Fellowes also wrote the recent HBO film, “The Girl,” starring Toby Jones and Sienna Miller as Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren.

And yet: everyone wants to talk to Fellowes. Actress Lorraine Toussaint and director Ava Duvernay (“Middle of Nowhere”) literally jump out of their seats as Fellowes nears them on a tour of the room. “Wait!” they cry. “Has anyone told you about your big following in the African American community?” Toussaint asks him. Fellowes is thrilled. “You’re a rock star,” Toussaint tells him.

At the same time, Sally Field and her 25 year old son Sam Greisman are glowing. “I’m in love with your show,” the double Oscar winner and “Lincoln” nominee announces.

And so it goes. Here are some “Downton” mini spoilers: Mary will have a new romance in Season 4 after surviving a tragedy. The actress who played Sybil wouldn’t come back, which is why she meets her demise in Season 3. Lady Edith, a manipulative little shrew, has “major” stories in Season 4.

And what of Lady Mary? Michelle Dockery is so lovely in person that you can’t stand it. She wins the female award for Gobsmacked Celebrity Who Can’t Believe the Fuss That’s Being Made over Them. (Christoph Waltz wins the male award.) Dockery has just finished a feature film, “Non Stop,” loaded with stars. But unlike some of her “Downton” colleagues, she’s smart enough to stay with the landmark show until it’s done.

I ask Fellowes if he ever thinks of “Upstairs Downstairs.” I suggest that if the Crawleys ever visit London they could socialize with the Bellamys, the fictitious family from that show.

“In fact,” Fellowes offers, “I almost killed off two Crawley cousins, Peter and James, on Titanic. But I couldn’t do it because the first Lady Bellamy went down with that ship. And it didn’t make any sense to do it.”


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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