Carnival Films, the studio that produces Downton Abbey, is denying a report that Dame Maggie Smith is leaving the hit PBS show after its upcoming third season.
In a statement obtained by The New York Times, the studio called the The Daily Mail report "complete nonsense." The studio added, "We never comment on future story lines but it's not true that she's leaving."
The U.K. newspaper reported on Saturday that the Oscar winner, 77, has asked to leave the show and that her character, fan favorite the Dowager Countess, will be written out. An anonymous source told The Daily Mail that Smith is leaving because she wants to end on a high note and wants room to do theater and film projects. The source alleged that Smith will stay on for all of Season 3 and the subsequent Christmas special. Season 3 is filming now in England and is set to premiere in the fall.
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The source also claimed that, although Downton boss Julian Fellowes has not yet completed the Dowager Countess' story line, the character would likely come down with a fatal illness. Executive producer Rebecca Eaton told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month that someone "pretty key in the cast" will die in Season 3, which will also see the introduction of new cast member Shirley MacLaine.
In addition to Smith, The Daily Mail reported that Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, has yet to renew his contract.
OK, so if it's not the Dowager Countess, who do you think is going to die next season?