Maggie Smith Leaving 'Downton Abbey?' The Dowager May Not Survive Season 3

  @http://www.twitter.com/entnewsnow on April 16 2012 2:34 PM

Another rumor about Maggie Smith leaving Downton Abbey has put fans of the popular PBS show at the edge of their seats.

The latest report claims that Smith, 77, has informed show creator Julian Fellowes that she is eying an exit for the Dowager Countess at the end of season three, which is currently in production.

Maggie has asked Julian to write her character out . . . she is filming until August and then wants to leave, going out on a high. She thinks that three series is enough and she wants to get back to the stage and big screen, a source told the Daily Mail.

But not so fast, says Downton Abbey studio Carnival Films.

We never comment on future story lines but it's not true that she's leaving, a representative for Carnival told The New York Times on Monday.

Believe what you want, Downton fans. But if Fellowes does write out Smith's character, all eyes will be on how she makes her exit.

He always has several endings so it won't be too difficult for him, but losing Maggie will be a great loss, the Daily Mail's source said this week.

Earlier this month, Downton Abbey executive producer Rebecca Eaton revealed spoilers for the upcoming season. And not everyone will make it to the end.

Somebody will be born, and somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast, unfortunately not going to make it. It's the 1920s now, Eaton told The Orlando Sentinel.

Smith, who has been with the show since it premiered in the UK nearly two years ago, is not the only one potentially jeopardizing the show's future.

According to another UK tabloid, the Mirror, Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley), Jessica Brown Findlay (Sybil) and Siobhan Finneran (Miss O'Brien) have yet to sign contracts beyond season three.

Downton Abbey has a history of major surprises, and the producers are not opposed to changing casting within the show to add to the drama. But it's hard to imagine the series without Maggie Smith or Dan Stevens involved in some way . . . to write the Dowager Countess out of the series, or even kill off the character, would be Downton's boldest storyline yet, a source told The Mirror.

What is certain for season three, meanwhile, is the much-anticipated addition of another legendary actress, Shirley MacLaine. The 77-year-old will play the mother of Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern).

There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine -- Shirley MacLaine being as ditsy as ever . . . and Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American, Eaton told the Sentinel.

Maggie Smith is a handful, it's true. She's very difficult. She knows her worth, and she's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes, Eaton added.

As Downton Abbey fans patiently wait for the next rumor surrounding the show, here's a look at some of Maggie Smith's best moments as the Dowager Countess.

Season three of Downton Abbey returns to PBS in September.

What do you think of the latest rumor surrounding Maggie Smith's possible exit from Downton Abbey? Can you imagine anyone else educating us about swivel chairs and what a weekend is?

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