From Jeeves and Wooster to Downton Abbey
I hope, like all of us here at Highclere (aka Downton Abbey), that you are rather excited about NBC’s announcement that they are making a “Downton Abbey” film. Michael Edelstein, president at NBC Universal International Studio, said that the movie is in the works although it is a logistical challenge to assemble the cast of 18 or 20 much loved characters into one time frame. Of course the largest and oldest “actor” has always been delighted to collaborate and to my eyes, even in old age, has never looked better.
Casting back in time, before “Downton Abbey,” Highclere had welcomed other film and TV crews. In the 1990’s the TVs series Jeeves and Wooster was partly filmed here. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry made themselves at home and, clearing out papers at the back of a garage, I have just found a few amusing photographs of their time here. The first thing I noticed was that whereas nearly all the Downton crew wore black puffers and jackets, the Jeeves crew’s sartorial choices were more varied……times change perhaps. I am a great fan of “Jeeves and Wooster” and some of Bertie Wooster’s aunts were very similar in character and unforgiving put downs as Maggie Smith’s character in Downton.
(The top photos below is from “Downton” times and the lower one from “Jeeves and Wooster”)
Highclere was also an outside location for other films such as “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” and the film “The Secret Garden”. We actually do have a so called secret garden here but since its direction is pointed out on a sign post it is not very secret. On the other hand it would be quite time consuming to spend the whole time helping visitors find it so perhaps it’s just as well.
Various scenes of “Inspector Morse” or of other TV series also came here, but the biggest Hollywood film for which Highclere was a location, was Stanley Kubrick’s last film “Eyes Wide Shut”. Delightfully, it also had a Hollywood location budget attached, and it ran over budget and time. As a result, my father- in-law was able to copy and have exactly re-made the beautiful silk wall hangings and curtains in the Green Drawing room here.
These fictional worlds exist alongside the ” real” political and economic world in which Highclere has so often played a genuine part. I have been completely absorbed in our exhibition for next week. I am delighted to welcome Canadians – please do ring us if you can come – for a “Constitutional Walk “ through the British North America Act which created the Dominion of Canada July 1st 1867, much of the planning and discussions took place here. But more on that next time…..