TV bosses have renewed Downton Abbey for a fifth season. The fourth season finale of the award-winning period drama, created by Julian Fellowes, aired in the U.K. on Sunday (10Nov13), and seconds after the credits, fans were treated to the good news that the show will be back next year (14).
Downton has garnered an average of 11.8 million viewers, becoming the highest-rated drama in the U.K. this year (13).
The show is also a big hit in America, but fans there will have until the new year for the fourth season to debut on 5 January (14).
The season four Christmas special, which will air on Christmas Day (25Dec13) in Britain, will feature two veteran American actors - Shirley MacLaine, who will reprise her role as Martha Levinson, and Golden Globe-winner Paul Giamatti, who will join the cast as family matriarch Cora Crawley’s playboy brother, Harold.
Joan Collins was snubbed by Downton Abbey's creators when she asked for a role in the hit British period drama. Rumours the Dynasty actress would make an appearance in the show first surfaced in 2011, but Collins dismissed them as hearsay, branding the suggestion a "non-starter".
But she has now revealed she did express an interest in playing Lady Cora's mother Martha Levinson, but was rejected by bosses of the drama.
The role eventually went to Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine.
Collins tells Britain's The Times newspaper, "I called (the producers) and they said no. I wanted to play the mother of Lady Cora but I was strongly rejected."
Rain Man director Barry Levinson will helm the movie, Black Mass, which chronicles the life of James 'Whitey' Bulger, who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Most Wanted List for almost two decades.
It will be based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O'Neill.
Bulger, who was reportedly the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's ruthless crime boss character in The Departed, was the brother of Massachusetts state senator William M. Bulger and one of the most famous criminals in American history.
Brian Oliver, president of production firm Cross Creek, says, "I could not be more thrilled to have the biggest star in the world (Depp) and Academy Award winning director Barry Levinson to finally bring this incredible story to the big screen. Black Mass expertly details the twists and turns of this highly complex story, painting a vivid portrait of Boston's underbelly and its corrupt political machine, as well as exposing the worst scandal in FBI history."
Black Mass isn't the only film about Bulger's life story in development - Matt Damon is also set to star as the crime lord in a new project directed by his pal Ben Affleck, while Twilight actor Peter Facinelli has secured the rights to adapt Edward MacKenzie and Phyllis Karas’ book Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer For Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob for another rival movie.
The movie veteran has joined the cast of the U.K. series as U.S. socialite Martha Levinson and while she has enjoyed working with the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery, she was surprised at how unaffected they were by the wintry weather.
She tells People magazine, "The best and the worst thing was the weather. I couldn't get over how much I loved it yet how difficult it made my life. It's nothing to the English actors. A windstorm could come in and blow off their wigs and they will just keep going."
MacLaine, 78, stars as the mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character, Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham in the current third season of the show and she's keen to reprise the part in future episodes, too.
She says, "I have no idea what Julian (Fellowes, creator) is writing. I did suggest that he bring a few of them to America. I want to see the Downton group Stateside!"
The Tootsie star admits he had been putting off the idea of stepping behind the camera for years, but he knew he'd have no problems re-energising his cast when he made his debut - thanks to lessons learned.
He explains, "Mike Nichols... said to me one day when I was a little tired, he took me aside and he said, 'This is the only time you're ever gonna have the chance to do this scene, and it's gonna be up there for the rest of your life so feel like you've given it more than your all.'"
Hoffman put the lesson to good use when Dame Maggie Smith, who portrays an ageing former opera star in Quartet, was struggling to understand one particular scene - he asked the veteran Brit to channel her inner diva.
He reveals, "I sent the crew out, sat her down and we had a long talk. I believe all good work has to be autobiographical so I said, 'Maggie, this is not a character, this is you.' We're both in our 70s and I want to know what that feels like for you... I'd found an interview she'd given, talking about being ill, getting old and her view of the future. I got her to say some of those same quotes in the film."
But it wasn't just Nichols' style of directing that Hoffman was inspired by - he was determined to create an amiable atmosphere on the shoot so his cast and crew would feel just as comfortable as he did on Barry Levinson's Rain Man set in 1988.
He adds, "Everyday we went to work, he (Levinson) would be sitting in a chair telling a story and (the crew) would say, 'We're ready'. He'd say, 'I'm not done with my story,' and would finish his story (first). He created an amiability and relaxation (on set)...
"I've been doing it (acting) for 45 years and I never understood... The idea is to feel loose and to feel like you're not shooting, you're rehearsing, basically."
Although Kim Kardashian's TV nuptials were doomed - she split from husband Kris Humphries 72 days after the couple exchanged vows - her sister is reportedly making plans to invite cameras to cover her big day when she weds longtime boyfriend Scott Disick.
According to In Touch magazine, the pair plans to get engaged when they tape the end of the current season of Kourtney & Kim Take Miami in December (12) - and Scott is already shopping for a ring.
A source says, "He was at Levinson Jewelers in Fort Lauderdale on October 25th. He was looking at really big, expensive diamond rings."
And it looks like the engagement will be a short one.
The source adds, "Kourtney and Scott have met with a wedding planner, and they’ve narrowed down the date - the wedding is scheduled to take place after Christmas but before Easter (13)."
Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
The movie veteran recalls women chatting about the series at the salon just days before she was offered the role of regular Elizabeth McGovern's socialite mother - and she had no idea what the show was.
She tells WENN, "I walked into my hairdresser lady in Malibu and they were talking about this (show)... I thought, 'I better go look,' and I did. Soon after that, (executive producer) Rebecca (Eaton) and some other folks in my life called.
"I ran three months of it (Downton Abbey) and I was just as addicted as everybody else... but then, when it was announced I was going to do (play) Martha Levinson, I didn't know anything about her.
"So I went to my hairdresser and all the ladies in my hairdressing place said, 'Oh, she's Jewish and she's from Long Island and she has a lot of money and she's looking for a titled, old man.'
"I thought, 'That might be worthwhile investigating along with the great acting,' and that's basically why I did it - to see if my hairdresser lady is right!"
Movie veteran Shirley Maclaine had a spooky time shooting scenes for TV series Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle in England - because the old place was haunted and King Tut's tomb was in the basement.
The Oscar winner, who is a leading spiritualist, has joined the cast of the period drama as American socialite Martha Levinson, and she admits she was fascinated by the supernatural world that buzzed about the set.
She tells U.S. news show Access Hollywood, "(It was) a fantastic experience... (Highclere) was haunted and the pictures came off the wall."
And, as if that wasn't spooky enough, Egyptian Pharaoh King Tutankhamun's final resting place was a permanent fixture below the set.
The fifth Earl of Carnarvon helped archaeologist Howard Carter discover the tomb of the king, and collected Egyptian antiquities throughout his life.
The tomb was transferred to Highclere after the earl's mysterious death a year after the discovery of King Tut's treasure just outside Cairo - he died from an infected mosquito bite.
MacLaine adds, "They had the tomb of King Tut in the basement."
Myth has it that the earl's favourite dog at Highclere died at the same time as her master in Cairo. There is an Egyptian Exhibition Room in the castle's basement, and many historians believe the stately home which now doubles as Downton Abbey is cursed because of its links to the unearthed burial site of Tutankhamun.