Wednesday 21 February 2018

Julian Fellowes: 'I am the product of strong women'

The creator of Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes has spoken of his inspiration for his leading ladies, saying: "I’m a product of strong women."

Dame Maggie as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
Dame Maggie as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Hannah Furness

The writer, who has shaped such formidable characters as Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham, said he was brought up by female role models and admitted they had become a "hallmark" of his work.

Lord Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Gosford Park, said many of his female characters were “freedom fighters” and added he had chosen the early 20th century setting for Downton Abbey because it was a period of change.

He said: “I’m a believer in strong women.

“I’m a product of strong women. I was brought up by them, I’ve lived with them all my life, and heaven knows I’m married to one.”

Twitter: Women's Institute - The Lord Fellowes: I am not a woman, but I am believer in strong women, and I am a product of strong women #AGM

Speaking at the Women’s Institute AGM at the Royal Albert Hall in London, he also hinted at the inspiration behind some of his most famous characters.

He told the audience he admired his great-aunt Isie, who became known for her quick, cutting remarks on the subject of good manners and prudent household management.

He added he chose to set period drama Downton Abbey in the pre-war years, progressing through to the First World War as the series went on, because it highlighted the changing society of Britain.

"The war was a tremendous melting pot,” he said. “It woke the country up.

“Women had to take over in all sorts of areas. Women learnt about the world they were in. Men learnt about the women who were in the world with them.”

Twitter: Women's Institute - The Lord Fellowes: The three sisters of Downton Abbey are freedom fighters #AGM

Lord Fellowes, 62, added his happy family home had been dominated by his mother.

The writer, who has recently work on television series Titanic, is married to Emma Kitchener-Fellowes, whom he praised as one of his “strong women”.

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