Following the shocking and disappointing death of Matthew Crawley in this year’s Christmas special of Downton Abbey, the creator of the epic ITV1 period drama, Julian Fellowes, has echoed claims from ITV made earlier this week that the decision was out of their hands, and the fact that Dan Stevens who played the character had refused to sign up for a fourth series was to blame for the storyline.
We reported earlier this year that Stevens, whose character Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash following the birth of his first child by his wife Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), was rumoured to not be signing a contract for the fourth series due to commence filming next year, and that he had set his sights on cracking America, where the show has a huge fan base also.
Now, with reports today suggesting that Stevens is set for Hollywood to star in the new movie based on WikiLeaks, Julian Fellowes, the genius behind the phenomenal show has revealed that he had no other option than to kill off the character, because of Stevens decision to leave.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Fellowes commented: “We have always tried to persuade him to stay. He had done fantastically well for the series and his creation of Matthew was terrific. But this is life. Dan felt that this was right thing for him, and the right moment to move on to different areas.”
Since Matthew’s death, which bared a striking resemblance to the death of Lady Sybil earlier this year, many fans of the show have expressed their disappointment in the character being killed rather than having the door left open for Stevens to return, with some claiming the storyline was:”a ‘travesty’, a ‘tragedy’ and an ‘outrage’, with some even claiming that the ending had ‘ruined their Christmas’.”
However, Fellowes maintained that killing Matthew was really the only option that the show could take once Stevens decided to depart, saying: “If he had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away,” the creator said.
“Otherwise we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn’t feel would be believable … So we didn’t really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain intact.”
After the episode aired on Christmas Day, Stevens explained his decision to exit the show: “We were always optioned for three years,” he told the Telegraph. “And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”
ITV then released a statement on the star’s departure stating: “After three successful series and two Christmas editions of ‘Downton Abbey,’ Dan Stevens decided not to renew his contract beyond the initial three years he had been contracted … Over the last three years, audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew’s relationship, culminating in their wedding. Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage. It is for this reason that the Producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode.”
Watch a report on Stevens decision not to sign up for the fourth series of Downton Abbey in the clip below: