If you thought the death of dear cousin Matthew on Downton Abbey was sad (and frankly, it ruined many a Christmas), then you should thank your lucky stars that the original plan was scrapped. While Matthew Crawley’s death, just days after his beloved wife, Mary, gave birth to their first child, was heartbreaking, it turns out that writer Julian Fellowes had first written a much sadder demise.
Dan Stevens, who played Matthew, revealed to the Daily Mirror that the initial plan was for Matthew to have a heart-to-heart with his mother, and be run over by a tractor-trailer.
“I remember he had a line like, ‘I’ve never been happier in my life.’ And then he stepped off a curb and was hit by a grocery lorry. It was too shocking — it was insane,” Stevens said. “You had people just running out of trailers saying, ‘No way, no way!’ And there was a sort of mass revolt that this was just too much.”
We’re glad to hear that they toned it down — we don’t think there are enough tissues in the world to have seen us through the alternative ending!
Secrets From the Set
- More than 100 stately homes in Britain and Ireland were considered for the series location, but Highclere Castle in Hampshire was the first place the production team saw.
- According to Alastair Bruce, Downton’s historical advisor, one odd historical detail had to be amended in order for us to understand what’s going on. “If our characters spoke exactly like ’20s folk, the dialogue and tone of the voices would sound unfathomable to modern ears,” he says.
- The cast were told to “keep emotions in the refrigerator.”
- “Today, we give free rein to our feelings,” Alastair Bruce explains. “It was the opposite in the ’20s. The actors have to reflect the protocol of the time.”
- The Grantham family’s living areas — hall, library, drawing room, and dining room — were filmed on location at Highclere, but after the first series, their bedrooms were constructed at Ealing Studios where all “below stairs” scenes are filmed.
- The bedroom sets were interchangeable; Robert’s dressing room doubled as the nursery and Tom Branson’s bedroom; Cora’s bedroom transformed into both Mary’s and Edith’s.
- There were 17 people in the costume department including designers, seamstresses, and pattern cutters. While the team used some original garments from the ’20s, many vintage items had to be painstakingly restored. The team scoured vintage clothing sales both in the UK and in Paris to source antique beading, fabrics, and lace.
- Although some props were hired, many are bought as they were used repeatedly. They were sourced from antique markets in Kempton Park, Dorking, and Lincoln. Remember the new-fangled electric mixer that frightened the life out of Mrs. Patmore in series four? It was an original 1919 mixer found on eBay for $99.
- The in-house art department produced everything from period product labels to menus and parcels.
- The “upstairs” actresses had to be in the make-up chair at 6:30 a.m. on the days they were on set. It took, on average, an hour-and-a-half to do their hair and make-up.
- Shoes were specially made for the cast, as original ’20s footwear is difficult to come by, plus it tends to be too narrow for modern feet.
- Many of the male actors required corrective make-up since the high collars of the period cause skin rashes.
- One rule on set is that all the actresses must wear “total sunblock,” to maintain an authentic pale complexion.
- All the food on screen was real, but chicken was substituted for fish dishes because that tended to smell after a long day. Downton’s own home economist made everything in bulk, so food could be constantly replenished, and therefore kept looking fresh during long hours of filming.
- In the kitchen, just a couple of the hobs worked and it was only steam that came out of the ovens.
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