The Story Behind the Surprise ‘Downton Abbey’ Cameo in ‘Iron Man 3′

Marvel, Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE - "Iron Man 3" and "Downton Abbey"

If you weren't expecting to find your favorite well-mannered British TV drama in a high-octane summer blockbuster, then you're not alone.

"Eh what?" went the tweet from "Downton Abbey" star Allen Leech last month after he learned that he had face time in "Iron Man 3."

But it's true, as early-bird reports from the action movie attest: Leech's earnest Tom Branson is seen professing love to his dear Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) not once but twice in the Robert Downey Jr. superhero adventure, which officially opens on Friday.

The "Downton Abbey" snippets -- described as the "hip-touch scene in the garage" and the "'you're too scared to admit it but you are in love with me' scene" by a Crawley-tracking Tumblr blog called Here I Am -- appear on a TV being watched by Tony Stark confidante Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).

The cameo, as it were, is no random act of randomness, nor is it merely a comic bit -- even if ex-boxer Happy's devotion to the proper PBS period drama does play funny.

"Pay attention to what #DowntonAbbey scene Happy is watching in #Ironman3," Favreau advised via Twitter last weekend. "It was carefully selected."

Favreau didn't elaborate, and neither did Disney, with the studio behind "Iron Man 3" allowing only that Happy and Tom Branson share a common employment history: Both Happy and Tom Branson were chauffeurs. (In the new movie, Happy gets promoted to Stark's security chief.)

But you don't need to be a Hollywood insider to guess what's going on; you just need to be up on your "Iron Man."

In the comics, as in "Downton Abbey," the ex-chauffeur gets the girl: Happy Hogan weds Stark's stalwart assistant, Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the big-screen franchise.

Now that we (think we) know a storyline for "Iron Man 4," the question is: Is Pepper Potts headed for a tragic end, à la poor Lady Sybil?

The comics say no, so the next question is: Are "Downton Abbey" die-hards kinda, sorta excited by this unexpected summer crossover?

Yes. Definitely yes.

"I have never watched any of the 'Iron Man' [films] in a theater, and only watched a few parts on DVD (never a whole movie), but you can bet I will be in the theater watching this time around!" Kim Clarkson of the fan blog Downton Abbey Addicts said via email. "Can't wait to see 'Downton Abbey' on the big screen even if it is just a short glimpse of an old episode!"

It beats waiting around until January for the start of Season 4.