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Julian Fellowes: I was not fashionable in the UK as I was not left wing

Julian Fellowes (Ian West/PA)
Julian Fellowes (Ian West/PA)

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes says he has been considered unfashionable in the UK because he is not left wing.

The director and screenwriter told the PA news agency he was embraced in the US, where he was given “a kind of weight that the English are very reluctant to do”.

Discussing why he did not fare so well at home in the UK, the 70-year-old said: “I wasn’t left wing, there is a kind of ‘donne’ you belong to the soft left if you are going to be taken seriously, culturally.

“The idea that you could be talented and not soft left is a contradiction in terms, it was that more than anything else.

“I don’t think my background was right and I had defined my type as an actor and they weren’t particularly prepared to reassess that in the light of my different career.

“But all of this sounds a bit as if I’m complaining. I’m not complaining, that is the way it worked for me and in the end I got the lucky break from somewhere else, and as a result I have been very fortunate over the years and I had the chance to do lots of stuff, here as well as in America.

“To a degree I had the last laugh, but I think the Americans were very open to what I could do and I am very grateful to them for it.”

Fellowes’ latest project is the big-screen version of Downton Abbey, which is being released this month.

He said the political climate was very different when he started working on it two years ago.

Discussing the current divisions in UK society, he said: “When I was writing the film we were not in the present situation.

“Actually what I think is very interesting about Brexit is that, for once it’s not about class, and that in fact the divisions between the leavers and the remainers cut right through the class system, and in one sense why Mr (Jeremy) Corbyn seems rather old fashioned, he and (John) McDonnell are still banging on about class warfare, whereas the rest of the population have moved on to a completely different territory.

“It’s more like the corn laws or the Hanoverian succession in that it cuts right through, families are divided by it, and couples, and that makes it less predictable than the struggles of the 50s and 60s, which on the whole were class warfare.

“But I was writing the script two years ago, or whatever it was, when we were still hoping that poor Mrs (Theresa) May was going to come through.”

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