The movie of much-missed television drama Downton Abbey is due to hit cinemas next year. Dorset resident Lord Julian Fellowes tells Living about bringing the world of Downton to the big screen.

The countdown is on.

Three years after the TV series ended, the film of Downton Abbey is a work in progress with a release date of September 2019.

Dorchester resident Lord Julian Fellowes, creator of the series, said the cast have been 'very happy' to be reunited.

Lord Fellowes has been back with the cast at the real life Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, in Berkshire, shooting scenes for the movie.

The reassembled cast, including Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary and Allen Leech as Branson, have been photographed filming in Lacock, Wiltshire - one of England's oldest villages, which receives more than 500,000 visitors a year.

Screenwriter Lord Fellowes, who calls the Dorset village of West Stafford home, has remained tight-lipped about the film's plot - which is rumoured to feature a royal storyline involving Queen Mary - but said seeing the reassembled cast in their costumes was a 'surreal moment'.

He said: "I was at Highclere and there was something almost surreal seeing them back in their costumes.

"It was a very happy time for us all. Downton was a big hit all over the world. It was a very nice cast and I think they made a lot of good friends among them so there was something of a reunion like the first day back at school... a very happy school."

Lord Fellowes said he's not banking on the success of the television drama being translated to the big screen.

"I hope we've done well and the people will enjoy it," he said. "In life you can't let yourself be daunted by the fact that it doesn't work out for some people.

"You just have to keep charging on and have a go and do your best... I don't think one should expect everything to be a triumph.

"I've done my best, I know the cast are doing their best and I think it will be fun. But I won't count any chickens, thank you, until it is out, until we know how it is doing."

Lord Fellowes has already enjoyed success in the movie business, with his 2001 film Gosford Park winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

One of the main challenges in going from television to film is giving storylines to all the characters, he said.

"In a series we usually give the big stories to maybe three characters a week... By the end of the series everyone would have big stories and it would all be plaited together.

"In a film you can't do that. Every character you include you must have their own story. The viewer can judge whether or not I have been successful, I wouldn't make any claims.

"I had to make sure every story of every character was completed within the movie. That did take a certain amount jiggery-pokery, but I am pleased with where we came to and very pleased with the reassembled cast."

It is thought that the film will be set a few years after we last caught up with the Crawleys in 1926.

Fans of the ITV drama, which ran for six series and won 15 Emmys and three Golden Globes, will see many of their favourites return, but unfortunately not break-out star Lily James, who played the Crawleys' cousin Lady Rose in the series. James, star of Mamma Mia 2 and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, has confirmed she won't be reprising her role.

She said: “My character Rose moved off to New York, so it would be far-fetched to bring her back.”

However, fan favourites who are returning are Dame Maggie Smith as the ever-cutting Dowager Countess, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Downton, and Joanna Froggatt as Anna Bates.

There will also be a few new faces - Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James, Simon Jones, David Haig, Tuppence Middleton, Kate Phillips, and Stephen Campbell Moore have joined the cast.

Michael Engler of the TV sitcom 30 Rock is directing. Gareth Neame, the film’s producer, said: “When the television series drew to a close it was our dream to bring the millions of global fans a movie.

“Julian’s script charms, thrills and entertains and we aim to deliver everything that one would hope for as Downton comes to the big screen.”