You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Downton Abbey’ Final Season: Behind the Scenes of That Bloody Dinner Table Moment

The threat of endings loomed large over the final season of “Downton Abbey,” and so when Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) interrupts a stately Downton dinner by spewing blood all over the table, fans were immediately worried for his fate. “The idea for having the scene from ‘Alien’ in the show came from Julian Fellowes,” says executive producer Gareth Neame. “He had spoken some time ago with a doctor and saw all this dramatic potential in the fact that (Grantham’s) ulcer could burst rather spectacularly.”

Adding to the challenge of the scene: filming in a real estate populated by priceless antiques. “That van Dyck painting alone is worth, I don’t know what, $25 million?” says executive producer Gareth Neame. “The idea of an actor sitting adjacent to it spitting a lot of fake blood out of his mouth was something that took a lot of care and planning.” Neame breaks down how the crew pulled it off through six key contributions.

Michael Engler, director
“Engler and his first assistant, Matt Carver, had to intricately break the scene down shot by shot, working out every detail and working out the most economical way to shoot the scene in the time available. Once Hugh Bonneville did one of these takes with the blood going everywhere, the whole thing had to be reset. He had to be changed, the room had to be reset and made good again. They shot everything on every angle before the blood, and then they put the blood in his mouth and redid everything again post the blood.”

Adam Gillham, director of photography
“We’ve shot hours and hours and hundreds of scenes in that dining room over the years. He obviously had to get it right because doing retakes was very problematic and time consuming. To be honest [the actors] hated doing them. You’ve got 12 people sitting around a table and everyone speaks to each other, you have to cover every (discussion). I had to keep saying to everyone on the team, ‘You may hate shooting these scenes but it’s great to have at least one of these in every episode.’”

“They shot everything on every angle before the blood, and then they put the blood in his mouth and redid everything again post the blood.”

Al Morrow, editor
“Al has been with the show for many many years. It was a very precise piece of editing, and very pre-planned by Michael Engler, but I can’t think of how many episodes he’s done across the years, he’s been on almost every season. He was quite a junior editor when we first brought him on, and he’s probably cut more episodes than anyone else.”

Anna Robbins, costume designer
“She’s very used to having all these men on the show in white tie and tails, but not so much to have several repeats of his clothing so they could have multiple takes. And sometimes on the day, the blood projectiled a little further than they were expecting. A lot of the blood was projected onto Elizabeth McGovern’s dress, and that was a real one-of-a-kind dress, it wasn’t something with repeats. The shock of [McGovern’s] reaction is quite real — it wasn’t planned, but maybe added to the reality of the situation.”

Aidan Farrell, colorist
“He’s graded every single episode, from beginning to end. In fact they decided they wanted the color of the blood to be slightly paler than the actual color of blood, so he could color time it to the right color for blood. If they used a dark red blood that’s a more real color he would have less control of it in the grading suite.”

John Lunn, composer
“I spot every episode with John Lunn and it’s done the same way we have from the beginning. Every cue is original. We definitely use leitmotifs but every cue is specifically written for each moment. There are times when the ‘Downton’ music can become incredibly dramatic, there are other times when John is marking the comedy, or the grandeur and the majesty of it all. Sometimes just as the story twists in these right angles, the music also had to suddenly come in and do something radically different.”

More TV

  • Us Television Writers and Producers Maria

    Mad Men’s’ Andre, Maria Jacquemetton Set for Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus

    MADRID — André and Maria Jacquemetton, the Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer-producers of AMC’s “Mad Men” and consulting producers on Amazon Studios’ “The Romanoffs,” will serve as Guests of Honor at Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus, a workshop whose participants include Denmark’s Christina Miller-Harris and Israel’s Noy Carmel. The Jacquemettons will deliver a masterclass and [...]

  • China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel

    China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England. “Life on Mars” [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content