- Golden Globe Awards
Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again, Summer!
Summer always reminds us of the memorable time when we visited the set of Mamma Mia!, the romantic comedy film directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Catherine Johnson, based on the latter’s book from the 1999 musical of the same name.
We can still vividly recall that summer in June of 2008 when the cast, led by Meryl Streep, talked to us. In that HFPA interview, Streep recounted when she first saw the stage musical. Her family had just moved to New York in September 2001 when the World Trade Center tragedy happened. “The kids were just dimmed. I thought, what am I going to do to cheer them up? This new musical had just opened in town. It was Mamma Mia! I took five of them and some other mothers. We left floating on air.
“We were so elated. It just reminds you of what it is to be happy and the good things about human beings, the joy of living, how great all those women are. It just couldn’t have been a better tonic for that time for the city.
“I wrote the cast a mash note saying basically, thank you for the music, for what you gave us because it really was something that meant a lot at that point.”
Then Streep admitted that she never imagined that seven years later, someone would come and say, we’re making a film of Mamma Mia! “and they’d like me to play Donna. I just about died! I just kept saying to them, ‘Are you sure you want me because I am not the likeliest choice?’ But I was thrilled because it did mean a lot to me. I love the music and I was very happy to get the chance.”
Also present on that set visit were Pierce Brosnan (as Sam Carmichael), a boyish-looking Colin Firth (as Harry Bright), and a charming Stellan Skarsgård (as Bill Anderson). Creator-producer Judy Craymer, director Lloyd and writer Johnson were also in attendance.
The jukebox musical is based on the songs of the pop group ABBA with additional music composed by ABBA member Benny Andersson who was also present with fellow ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus. Both had cameo appearances in the movie with Andersson portraying the “Dancing Queen” piano player while Ulvaeus was a Greek god.
The movie was about a bride-to-be, Sophie Sheridan, who invited three men to her upcoming wedding, with the possibility that any of them could be her father. A fresh-looking Amanda Seyfried (as Sophie), with her blonde hair pulled neatly in a bun, was then introduced to us. It was her first leading role.
Seyfried recorded five songs on the film’s soundtrack and even recorded a music video of the song “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).”
In Seyfried’s first HFPA interview in June 2008, we asked her what it was like working with Streep. She answered, “It was quite shocking, first of all, to have gotten the role. Coming into a movie where I am supposed to be playing opposite her, it’s really intimidating. Because she is quite possibly, the greatest actress. To perform at her level, I didn’t think I could be capable of doing that. Instead of expecting that of myself, I just allowed her to take me into her zone.
“When you are acting opposite the most incredible actress, she makes you better. For the first time in my career, I was able to get completely lost in the scenes with her. That is the most fulfilling thing for an actress or an actor – to be able to completely forget where you are and play a character so purely. She allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the movie is over, and God knows that I am going to be able to work with her again.”
The film became the fifth highest-grossing movie of 2008. It was the 159th highest-grossing film of all time as of February 2021.
And Seyfried did work with Streep again…in the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in 2018.
Written and directed by Ol Parker from the story by Parker, Johnson, and Richard Curtis, the movie is both a prequel and a sequel. The plot is set after the events of the previous film and is interspersed with flashbacks to Donna’s youth in 1979.
Lily James portrays the young Donna Sheridan in a flashback to the 1970s when she graduates from Oxford’s New College and dreams of living on a Greek island named Kalokairi.
Coming back to the film were Brosnan, Firth, and Skarsgård as well as Christine Baranski (Tanya Chesham-Leigh), Julie Walters (Rosie Mulligan), and Dominic Cooper (Sky).
Making the movie even more interesting are the appearances of Cher as Ruby Sheridan, Donna’s estranged famous singer-mother, and Andy Garcia as Señor Fernando Cienfuegos, the Mexican manager of the Hotel Bella Donna, who had an affair with Ruby in 1959.
In our HFPA interview on June 7, 2018, Cher said about being in the film and being a mother to Streep in the flashback, “It was the easiest time I ever worked because I’ve never been on a set where it was a comedy and there was drama in it, but a musical.
“Everybody was so calm, maybe because they’d worked with each other before. And I came in, I was the lone person that just came in by herself. I was really nervous, and everybody was so kind and just really nice to me. I didn’t know any of them except Meryl. I had met Pierce but I didn’t really know him. I just walked onto the set. I didn’t know the director (Ol Parker). I had been kind of mean to him before I met him (laughs). But he is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with, maybe the best director.”
The movie was released in the United Kingdom and the United States on July 20, 2018, 10 years to the week after its predecessor’s release.
As expected, the movie was another box office success, grossing $402 million worldwide with positive reviews.
Just writing this made us hum those ABBA songs. Mamma Mia, here we go again indeed, summer!