Saturday, September 14, 2013
Elizabeth McGovern: Why I turned down marriage to Sean Penn and begged on my knees to play Downton's mistress
MAIL ON LINE
By LOUISE GANNON
PUBLISHED: 16:00 EST, 14 September 2013 | UPDATED: 21:20 EST, 14 September 2013
Are you ready for the return of Downton-mania? The frenzied craze for the costume drama to end all costume dramas is set to shoot right off the scale when series four launches next weekend.
And even the normally unflappable Royals are getting in a lather over the imminent return of Lady Mary, Carson, the Earl of Grantham and his porcelain-skinned wife, Lady Cora, the Countess, played by the stunning American actress Elizabeth McGovern.
Except, unlike normal Downton fans, when the Royals crave a hit of their favourite show, they can simply turn up at Highclere Castle – the stately home where it is filmed – to meet the stars.
‘Pippa Middleton came with her mum and her brother,’ McGovern reveals, as she whisks Event on a whirlwind tour.
‘They were lovely. They asked lots of questions, stayed to watch some of the filming.
‘Pippa was very pretty and polite and I’d definitely say the cast were probably more excited than the guests. I had a big chat with her mum, too.’
The massive success of the show is not something McGovern, 52, imagined.
It’s ITV’s most successful period drama ever, winning Emmys in America, spawning a Hollywood career for Dan Stevens who – as Matthew Crawley – was killed in a car crash in the last series.
‘We miss him,’ she says. The Downton cast are extremely close.
‘It is incredibly hard work, long days, late shoots, but we are a real team. It’s an amazing thing to work on a show that is so successful; that has an unbelievable effect on the cast.
‘There’s definitely a split between the young ones and the older ones. But on set we have ways of keeping ourselves amused.
'Michelle (Dockery, Lady Mary) and Allen (Leech, the chauffeur-turned-gentleman) are brilliant mimics. He does a flamboyant fashion designer act, Michelle does a great LA actress on the red carpet. Then Maggie (Smith) has all her anecdotes, which are amazing.’
I meet McGovern in the restaurant of a West London studio, and over cappuccino she casually gives me a great Downton scoop: as the Grantham family move into the Roaring Twenties, the women are finally granted their freedom . . . from their clothes.
‘That’s right, no corsets this time, a big bonus. We can breathe again! The dresses are a lot more comfortable.’
I push McGovern for more revelations, but she remains cagey about what we can expect – Downton stars are kept on a famously tight leash when it comes to revealing forthcoming script details.
Like Cora – whom she loves (‘She’s a really good, decent woman. She doesn’t make dramas, she just tries to make everything right for everyone else’) – McGovern is an American in England married to film director and producer Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn, The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice).
Her eldest daughter, Matilda, is reading English at Oxford and her youngest, Grace, is 15. Her life has been about gently breaking rules. Her parents are American academics. Her mother was a teacher, her father a professor, her great-grandfather a famous diplomat.
As revealed in the Mail on Sunday last month, McGovern plays and sings ‘mum music’ in her band Sadie And The Hot Heads, but she never went to a rock concert as a teenager.
‘In my family it was classical or maybe jazz,’ she says.
She grew up in LA and became an actress contrary to family expectations. Success was instant, overwhelming and huge.
Her first film, at 19, was Ordinary People, with Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton. It won four Oscars. Her second, Ragtime, earned her an Oscar nomination. Her third, Once Upon A Time In America, pitched her against Robert De Niro as the object of his sexual obsession.
The same year – 1984 – she starred in Racing With The Moon with Sean Penn. Penn fell madly in love with her, they got engaged – everything was pointing to a Hollywood superstar future. So she split from Penn and left LA to study theatre in New York.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2418897/Downton-Abbeys-Elizabeth-McGovern-Why-I-turned-marriage-Sean-Penn-begged-knees-play-Downtons-mistress.html#ixzz2evTi53oz
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook