Two Films On Period Drama Collide; Sparks And Explosions Fly
Los Angeles (AP) For several years, the period drama Downton Abbey captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Set in the 1920s and telling the story of the lives, both upstairs and downstairs, in an English manor, the series developed a loyal audience as it wove the tangled stories of the aristocracy and those working for them against the backdrop of history. Creator Julian Fellowes, esteemed by the audience for his work, has been carefully developing a feature film following up the series and featuring a number of the characters from the series. The film is due to be released in September. This reporter, who watched one episode once and was bored out of his mind, will not be taking it in (editor: you don’t have a mind!)
And yet another Downton Abbey film saw seen the light in 2015, opening to savage reviews by critics. Downton Abbey: Blowing Up The Abbey was brought to life by director Michael Bay, known for a series of logic ignoring, explosion prone, loud and noisy preposterous films (editor: drop dead! Michael Bay is a great director!) such as Pearl Harbor and the Transformers franchise. This reporter, unfortunately stuck with a grouchy editor with anger management issues (editor: shut up!) and who doesn’t respect restraining orders (editor: what did I just say about shutting up?) has been condemned to doing stories his cranky editor knows he won’t like (editor: burn in hell, you jackass!).
The Bay take on the franchise didn’t feature any of the series cast. Nor was it filmed at Highclere, the setting that doubled for the manor in the series. Strenuously refused by Lord and Lady Carnarvon to allow filming, Bay instead rendered his version of Highclere in a CGI form and had sets built to resemble the interior. It was a production plagued by problems, delays, and death threats by fans who were furious by what Bay might do to their beloved franchise. Fellowes and fellow producers Gareth Neames and Rebecca Eaton stressed that Bay had swindled his way into making his adaptation, and officially disavowed the project.
None of this mattered to Bay, who never met an explosion he didn’t like (editor: you’re just jealous of a great movie auteur like Michael Bay!). His cast was mis-cast to say the least. Nicolas Cage played Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham. Shia LaBeouf played Matthew Crawley, the heir. Betty White had been cast as the Dowager Countess. Megan Fox appeared as Lady Mary Crawley. Jon Voight took the role of Thomas Barrow. And Steve Buscemi appeared as the valet John Bates. Any effort to use British accents was ignored in a film that went out of its way to have Jon Voight kick King George V in the ass before sending a freight train into runaway mode and destroying the manor. The film nonetheless did big box office among Bay fans, while attracting the wrath of actual Downton fans, who protested outside of showings.
“500 million dollars,” Bay said with a smirk when reached at his offices at Digital Domain this week. As always he looked himself- the casual clothing, the three days of stubble, the disheveled hair, the dimwitted grin, the vacant eyes suggesting nothing much was going on in his head (editor: shut up! Stop disrespecting Michael Bay!) “Let’s see those boring-ass idiots Fellowes and company make five hundred million out of their little film.”
Dame Maggie Smith, having had returned to her popular role as the sardonic Dowager Countess, has always been less than impressed with Bay. “He is an odious little troll, a self-absorbed waste of oxygen, a buffoon, and a bloody fool. And that’s me being kind,” she told this reporter from the set of the new film.
The new film, having largely wrapped up its filming time at Highclere and reunited much of the cast, gives hope to the fans of the series who were so incensed by the Bay adaptation. Penelope Hampshire, president of the Downton Abbey Worldwide Fan Association and a professor of history at Oxford, admitted in a phone call that the devoted fans of the series were outraged at the time. “You take an uncultured nitwit like Michael Bay and let him loose on something we love so dearly, what do you expect? Oh, certainly, for a time there was a bounty on his head, but that just reflects how strong our feelings are for the series. Yes, the bounty on him is long gone, but that doesn’t mean all is forgiven. Frankly, if he was clinging to the edge of a cliff and calling for help, I might be inclined to step on his fingers.”
For a last word on the matter, we turn back to Bay himself. “Oh, sure, I wish them all well. Let them make the five grand a bunch of old grannies will pay to see the movie in the first weekend before it closes to abysmal numbers. That’ll give me a chance to start production on a sequel. I’m thinking of setting it in World War Two and calling it Downton Ruins. Luftwaffe bombers, people! Luftwaffe bombers!”
In the opinion of this reporter, Michael Bay is nuts. (editor: restraining order be damned, I will end you.)
This reporter would like to point out that his cranky editor has just threatened his life yet again. Surely this qualifies as a violation of that restraining order (editor: you are dead, man! Dead!).