Home Movies Great News! “Downton Abbey” Sequel Coming This December with Maggie Smith Returning...

Focus Features has the best holiday gift for all of us! The Dowager Countess Grantham, aka Violet Crawley, is returning to “Downton Abbey.”

Maggie Smith is returning for the “Downton” sequel and the movie is shooting now for a December release. Violet said she had cancer in the first movie so Smith would have an out if she didn’t want to return for the second part. But this morning the production announced the entire cast would be in the new movie. That means Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carson, and so on.

The other great news is that Simon Curtis is the director. It’s about time. Curtis, director “My Week with Marilyn,” is also the husband of Elizabeth McGovern, aka Lady Grantham Cora Crawley.

Smith has two Oscars and four Emmy Awards. She won the Tony Award on Broadway in 1990 for one of the best things I’ve ever seen, the hilarious “Lettuce and Lovage.” She will turn 87 in December just as the film is released. She’s in her Prime!

Also joining the cast are Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West.

Is Lily James returning? It’s a little ironic that West is coming in because he was in a big tabloid scandal in real life linking him to former “Downton” TV cast member Lily James, who played cousin Rose. In the series Rose moved to the US with her new husband. Maybe she’s returning to England with West.

Presumably, this is the last of “Downton,” as creator Julian Fellowes can wrap up all the story lines. Branson will marry the Crawley cousin, thus ensuring the financial future of Downton Abbey. And sadly, Smith’s Violet will probably expire at last, but not til the end of the movie — it would be a bummer otherwise.

“Downton Abbey 2” is a Carnival Films production, with Focus Features and Universal Pictures International distributing. Carnival Films is part of NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group.

The first “Downton” movie made $236 million worldwide and $96.8 million in the US. It was a solid hit, and fans of the show loved it.

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