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Downton Abbey and 4 other TV shows that have been turned into movies

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When it was announced that Downton Abbey was being made into a full-length feature film, fans of the ITV series must’ve thought all of their Christmases had come at once. Showing at Cineworld cinemas now, the movie follows the Crawley family and their servants as they prepare for a visit from King George and Queen Mary. And it’s been getting great reviews so far, with the delightful Highclere Castle in Hampshire looking suitably majestic on the big screen.

Of course, Downton Abbey isn’t the only popular TV show that’s been given the cinematic treatment. Here are a few others that have been made into films, for better or worse…

Downton Abbey: discover who’s who in the period drama
Watch our Downton Abbey interview with Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael & Allen Leech

1. Absolutely Fabulous (2016)

Twenty-four years after it debuted on the BBC, and four years after its final episode was broadcast Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley’s riotous sitcom finally made it onto the big screen. Mind you, if it hadn’t been for a bet, the wait could’ve been even longer. Appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show shortly before the film’s release, Saunders revealed: “I had a bet with Dawn [French] that I would have to pay her £10,000 if I didn’t produce [the movie] by the end of the year. “We had a live radio show at the end of [last] year, so I produced a first draft by [then]. I literally vomited it out. On New Year’s Eve, it came out!” Directed by Mandie Fletcher, the Ab Fab movie sees Edina and Patsy on the run from the police after supposedly killing Kate Moss (who reportedly performed her own stunts throughout).

Among the many other famous faces who made appearances in the film was Rebel Wilson. The Australian actress was so keen to land a part, she wrote a letter to Jennifer Saunders. “I full-out got down on my knees and begged,” she later told The Independent. “There’s no level to which I wouldn’t have gone!” 


2. The Equalizer (2014)

Back in the Eighties, The Equalizer was a hugely popular TV show on both sides of the Atlantic – and not just with viewers. Over the course of its four series, the Edward Woodward-fronted US crime drama saw a long list of famous cameos, including Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Grey, Telly Savalas and even Adam Ant. By the time it came to making the movie – the first of two to date – Woodward had long since passed away, so Denzel Washington took over the role of Robert McCall, in this case a DIY store operative with a penchant for Gladys Knight and killing. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the reimagined Equalizer was significantly more brutal than the Eighties TV series, Washington hunting down and slaughtering a Russian drugs gang without even changing his facial expression. The film wasn’t entirely different to the television show, though: Melissa Leo, who starred alongside Washington as McCall’s friend and agency colleague Susan Plummer, briefly popped up in a 1985 episode of the programme.

3. The A-Team (2010)

In a 2003 poll conducted by Yahoo!, The A-Team was voted the ‘oldie’ TV show viewers would most like to see make a comeback. While the series has yet to be revived, it did make it onto the big screen in 2010, with Joe Carnahan directing, and Liam Neeson (Hannibal), Bradley Cooper (Face), Quinton Jackson (B.A. Baracus) and Sharlto Copley (Murdock) playing the legendary soldiers of fortune. The film didn’t exactly set the box office alight, making $177million on a $110million budget, and the original TV stars weren’t particularly blown away either. Mr T, who played B.A. Baracus in the show, told The Guardian: “People die in the film and there’s plenty of sex, but when we did it no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment. These seem to be elements nobody is interested in any more. It was too graphic for me.” And although Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz – the original Face and Murdock – made cameos, Benedict later said he regretted it, telling the Sunday Express: “You’ll miss me if you blink. I kind of regret doing it, because it’s a non-part. They wanted to be able to say: ‘Oh yeah, the original cast are in it,’ but we’re not. It’s three seconds. It’s kind of insulting.”

4. Bean (1997)

Turning Rowan Atkinson’s terminally awkward TV character into a movie star made perfect commercial sense. Not only was Mr Bean massive in the UK, attracting up to 19 million viewers during its 1992 peak; the show had also been exported to nearly 200 countries worldwide – its lack of dialogue clearly giving it a universal appeal. Sure enough, Bean the movie was a box-office smash, grossing more than $250million globally on a budget of around $18million. One of just five films directed by Atkinson’s Not the Nine O’Clock News buddy Mel Smith, it saw our bumbling hero travel to America to deliver a highly valuable painting to a Los Angeles gallery, with predictably chucklesome results. Interestingly, in the scene where Mr Bean flashes his passport at the airport, his date of birth is revealed to be January 6th 1955 – the same as Rowan Atkinson’s. But that’s not all – National Bean Day in the US, held in honour of the food, is also celebrated on January 6th. Coincidence? We’ll let you decide…

Downton Abbey is being screened at Cineworld cinemas now. Click here to book your tickets.