Downton Abbey might be on hiatus but Hollywood certainly hasn’t taken a break from nodding to the ever-growing phenomenon.
But while Modern Family, The Office, Suits, 30 Rock and even How I Met Your Mother (in its own way) have all recently given nods to Abbey, Iron Man 3, which made $680 million globally in the box office this weekend, could end up being one of the show’s most significant pieces of exposure yet.
In the movie, Jon Favreau’s Happy, Iron Man’s former bodyguard, is hospitalized after a big blast at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood leaves him in a coma. So what does Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) request as entertainment for his unconscious friend? Downton, naturally! (Stark claims: “It’s his favorite show.”)
Executive producer Gareth Neame had yet to see the film when EW chatted with him prior to its release, but explained that it came together rather simply. “They just approached us,” he said. “[The Iron Man producers] just said, ‘We think the character should be watching Downton in the hospital bed.’ And we looked at the context and thought ‘That’s good. We’ll do it.’”
Now nearly four seasons into its run, Neame says he never could have predicted the cultural impact — particularly in the United States — that the PBS program would have had. “I thought we’d make a good show and I thought it’d be popular for a traditional anglophile audience, but what we could have never anticipated was the fact that it was going to be a piece of sort of touchtone content here in the U.S. and that it would be one of the biggest shows in America.”