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The delightfully acerbic Dame Maggie Smith doesn’t often make public appearances, so it was with some trepidation we noticed she had taken to the stage in London on Saturday (April 8).

Her appearance was part of the BFI & Radio Times TV Festival, and was billed as “In Conversation With” the Downton Abbey star.

According to the Radio Times, topics ranged from her early stage career to her role as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films, not to mention a friendly rivalry with a certain Dame Judi Dench, who she joked always seemed to get parts before she did.

The conversation then turned to the role she’s most famous for: that of Violet Crawley, Downton‘s inimitable Dowager Countess, and how it changed her life.

“It’s ridiculous. I led a perfectly normal life until Downton Abbey,” she said. “I’m not kidding. I would go to theaters, I would go to galleries and things like that on my own. And now I can’t. And that’s awful. [Even] the Fulham Road’s dodgy.

“And it’s all through television. I had been working for a very long time before Downton Abbey and life was fine, nobody knew who the hell I was.”

That all changed, of course, when Downton became the smash international hit it is today, and Maggie became famous for never having heard of “a weekend.”

Such is its popularity, that ever since the final season aired last year, there have been rumors of a Downton film that would reunite the extended Crawley family. Just last month Jeremy Swift confirmed a script WAS in existence, while other cast members have talked excitedly about the prospect.

Dame Maggie, however, is having none of it. As well we know, the veteran actress does not suffer fools gladly, especially when they’re a wise-cracking Jimmy Kimmel. And in response to a question about the possibility of a big screen version, she gave fans of the period drama no room for hope whatsoever.

“They talk about there being a film but who knows. I hope you might tell me if you do know. I just think it’s squeezing it dry, do you know what I mean? I don’t know what it could possibly be. It’s too meandering.”

And then, in reference to Downton creator Lord Julian Fellowes, she followed up with:

“Anyway, that’s not my problem, is it? That’s the Lord’s problem.”

The “Lord” in question does in fact seem to be serious about a film, having told Anglophenia’s very own Maude Garrett last year that he was “all for” the idea.

Unfortunately, Dame Maggie didn’t get the memo. When pushed about possible storylines, however, she did have an idea — although it wouldn’t involve much screen time for the Dowager Countess.

“I was firmly convinced it would start with the funeral,” she said, meaning the Dowager’s. “I could croak it, and it would just start with the body.”

Oh. That would be disappointing. We’re not even sure it’s Downton without the Dowager.

Would you still want to watch a Downton film without Dame Maggie?

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.