What with all the furor and fun on this site delivered by the broadcast of Downton Abbey, we thought we'd take a closer look at Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay and who is penning the second installment of the series, due at Christmas. As though that wouldn't keep one busy enough, Fellowe's is also writing the pilot for a U.S. period piece called The Vanderbilts and another ITV1 drama series, about the sinking of the Titanic.
Born in Egypt, where his father was in the British Embassy, Fellowes grew up in England and attended Cambridge. In a 2005 interview Fellowes said, "When I was a young man, I came from the bottom end of the landed gentry. Now I get the glad hand; in those days I made up the extra --- the one who gets invited when someone else can't make it. At house parties I had the bedroom next to Nanny with the uncomfortable bed. When you're a minor player, you're in a better position to see people as they really are than if you're a grandee."
After going to drama school, he was a "jobbing actor for ages" and appeared in more than 40 movies and TV shows, including Monarch of the Glen, in which Fellowes played the part of the titled, priviliged and somehow endearing Kilwillie. Other notable acting roles included the part of Claud Seabrook in the acclaimed 1996 BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North. He has twice notably portrayed George IV as the Prince Regent in the 1982 television version of The Scarlet Pimpernel and the 1996 adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's novel Sharpe's Regiment. In 1999, Fellowes played the Duke of Richmond in the Masterpiece Theatre production of The Aristocrats, based on the book by Stella Tillyard. He launched a new series on BBC One in 2004, Julian Fellowes Investigates: A Most Mysterious Murder, which he wrote and also introduced on screen.
Feeling in need of a Plan B, Fellowes turned to writing and worked for a while for BBC TV, where he adapted Little Lord Fauntleroy and the Prince and the Pauper for television. Subsequently he wrote a screenplay for Anthony Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds, which drew the attention of producer Bob Balaban, who was looking for a British society insider to write a screenplay for a murder mystery. "And so Gosford Park was born, and so was the rest of my life," explained Fellowes, who won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002 for that film.
In addition to Gosford Park, Fellowes wrote the screenplay for Mira Nair's Vanity Fair (Starring Reese Witherspoon) and the book for the London and Broadway productions of Mary Poppins. He also wrote and directed Separate Lies, which he described in 2005 as "a French film in English, about middle-class people being unhappily married, which will doubtless be steamrollered in the Big, Bad World, but I love it and I loved making it, so I have no sad tales to tell."
In the 1970s he also wrote romantic novels, using the names Rebecca Greville and Alexander Morant.
In 2006 and 2007, Fellowes was the host of the BBC TV panel game show “Never Mind the Full Stops.” He wrote the screenplay for The Young Victoria, and has other screenplays to his credit, including Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.