It’s a go. While series creator Julian Fellowes may not have Dame Maggie Smith‘s blessing, with her saying a film adaptation is “squeezing it dry,” the Downtown Abbey movie has a start date, which is — drumroll please — 2018!

NBCUniversal International Studios president Michael Edelstein confirmed the production start date with the Associated Press just yesterday (June 21). He and the production company are hoping to reunite 20 cast members from the original series, which aired on ITV in the U.K. and PBS in the U.S.

They haven’t released a list of actors on their proposed roster just yet, but let’s just say, people are allowed to change their minds. Yes, we’re talking to you Dame Maggie.

A few months ago, actor Jeremy Swift, who played butler Septimus Spratt in the series, confirmed a script was already in the works. According to Edelstein, the script is being refined, with the NBCU exec saying, “We are working on getting the script right and then we’ve got to figure out how to get the [cast] together.”

Baby steps…

He goes on to say, “Because, as you know, people go on and do other things. But we’re hopeful to make a movie sometime next year.”

So, let’s call a spade a spade: “sometime next year” can translate to January 1, 2018 or December 31, 2018… leaving wiggle room for the date to shift.

If any of the DA folks are reading this — Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Michelle DockeryMaggie Smith (cough, cough) — please keep 2018 free for shooting.

It’s not clear if the film will pick up where the series ended or fast-forward in time (maybe even rewind with a prequel). That’s all up in the air at the moment…

But, Dame Maggie has her own theory, with the story possibly starting with her character’s demise, saying at the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival two months ago, “I was firmly convinced it would start with the funeral,” she said, meaning Violet Crawley’s. “I could croak it, and it would just start with the body.”

That’s one way to go.

Do you have any suggestions on a starting point for the film version of DA

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By Brigid Brown