Second Downton Abbey movie in production and set for December release

A sequel to the hit Downton Abbey movie is in production - and is set for release this Christmas.

The original cast - including Hugh Bonneville and Dame Maggie Smith - will return for the second film which follows the successful feature length movie released in 2019.

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The movie was a spin-off to the wildly popular ITV television series, which ran for six series and starred Bonneville, Dame Maggie, Laura Carmichael, Michelle Dockery and Joanna Froggatt among many others.

Hanniball star Hugh Dancy, Guardians of the Galaxy actress Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye - known for Catch Me If You Can - and The Wire actor Dominic West are joining the cast.

Show creator Julian Fellowes will again write the screenplay. The first film followed a royal visit to the Yorkshire Estate of the Grantham family from the King and Queen of England to Downton, though it is not yet clear if the plot will follow the theme.

However, the first film did reveal that Dame Maggie’s character, the dowager countess, did not have long to live - which would surely be picked up in the plot.

The film was set a year and a half after the end of the television series - which ended during the general strike of 1926.

The 2019 film grossed $194m worldwide.

Simon Curtis - known for his work on My Week with Marilyn - will direct the sequel.

Production began last week, Variety reports, with the release date currently set at December 22 2021.

Gareth Neame, the film’s producer and executive chairman of Carnival Films which is behind the movie, said that follow-up was the perfect antidote following a difficult year.

“After a very challenging year with so many of us separated from family and friends, it is a huge comfort to think that better times are ahead and that next Christmas we will be reunited with the much beloved characters of Downton Abbey,” he said.

Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski said to Variety: “There’s no place like home for the holidays, and we can’t imagine a better gift than getting to reunite with Julian, Gareth, and the entire Downton family in 2021 to bring the Crawley’s back home for their fans.”

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