9 August 2012 1:06 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Downton Abbey is having fun with MacLaine v Maggie Smith, but in transatlantic casting the Brits are usually the butt of the joke

Shirley MacLaine, the Oscar-winning star of Terms of Endearment, is sweeping into Downton this autumn as the scabrous Martha Levinson, mother to Elizabeth McGovern's Lady Cora and the brass that facilitated her daughter's marriage to Hugh Bonneville's Lord Grantham.

And doesn't she know it. "Here's to the future as long it's not like the past," says MacLaine's Martha L in what is obviously the real point of the casting: the chance for a sparring match with Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess of Grantham.

It is the ultimate transatlantic culture clash – and as delicious as it sounds. But of course MacLaine is by no means the first American to grace British screens (and indeed, vice versa).

From Johnny Depp in The Fast Show to Boy George in The A-Team, »

- Ben Dowell

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