Cher, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski and the women of Mamma Mia 2 spill all
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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is all set to be this summer’s biggest blockbuster, and its ABBA tracks are almost guaranteed to become the soundtrack of the next few months. With glitter, dramatic platform heels and a whole lot of dancing, there’s nothing not to love about this highly-anticipated sequel (or is it a prequel?). The National Student got to speak with the cast and people involved in the project and here is, rounded up, what the lovely women of Mamma Mia 2 had to say about the film, their characters, the music, and each other! The original musical was the brainchild of Judy Craymer, who also produced Mamma Mia! The Movie and returned as producer for this second film. “It took ten years,” she explained, “but it was a matter of finding the right story, a matter of bringing back our wonderful legacy cast, and how to use the songs and how the songs would earn their place in the story. “I’d discussed with Phyllida Lloyd and Catherine Johnson, the two architects of the first one, of doing another film, and they weren’t that keen. They felt very close to the material, and so gave me the blessing to look for another writer. And one of the things we were always interested in doing was a prequel, because Catherine Johnson’s story was so rich in the backstory of how Donna got to the island, what was the odyssey of the men, of Donna and the journey? “So, I called Richard Curtis, as you do – who I’m a huge fan of – and he said ‘Well, Godfather 2. You’re going to go back and forth in time.’ But unfortunately he couldn’t write it because he was doing his own projects, but he introduced me to Ol Parker, we conspired, and here we are now.” Returning from the ‘legacy cast’, as Craymer put it, is the fabulous Christine Baranski, who was certainly very keen to reprise her role as Tanya and return to her Mamma Mia family. “I agreed to do the sequel without even seeing a script, because I’d had so much fun,” she laughs. “My first question was, are the same people on board? And the word was that people were going to move heaven and earth and arrange their complicated schedules to do it. “Then when I read the script, I was so taken with how truly original it was to take the story and do a sequel where you see the maturation of these characters, that have been informed by loss, and see them coming together with new emotional depths. “And then the brilliance of taking it back in time with six drop-dead, talented, sexy young performers doing all those sexy rock and roll songs so brilliantly. And it is just an ingenious construct, and kudos to Ol Parker and Judy, and Benny [Andersson], and everybody who waited ten years to make sure it was exactly right.” As Baranski and Craymer both mentioned, the film jumps back and forward in time, so that the audience gets to meet the young Donna and the Dynamos, with Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies as Donna, Tanya and Rosie respectively. Seeing the young cast perform is arguably just as electric as seeing Meryl Streep, Baranski and Julie Walters jamming out on stage. “Getting into rehearsal with Alexa and Jess, and dancing by their side, I have never felt a high like that in my life!” says James. “We became this girl band and the power of that, the strength and the joy, was just amazing. It was a really beautiful energy on set.” “There was a moment when we were rehearsing ‘Kiss the Teacher’ right near the beginning,” she continued, “and you [Baranski] snuck into rehearsal, and it meant the world to us that you came and burst into applause and were like ‘You’re doing it girls, you’re doing it!’ and that meant everything.” And on playing Meryl Streep’s younger self, Lily James explained, “I mean, Donna Sheridan is the most beloved, brilliant, extraordinary woman and character, and Meryl Streep is also all of those things. And her Donna was everything, and so I tried my hardest to watch it and learn from what Meryl did, and try to capture the essence of that fearless, uninhibited woman. “And I watched the film over and over again to try and get into her body, her physicality, how Meryl moves and how she’s so open to the world, just facing it all front on. And I felt that if I could find my way into the physicality, then you would hopefully believe that my Donna could grow into that woman. And in the end, just surrendering to that moment, being there with all these amazing people, and dancing and singing… and I think that’s the spirit of the movie, just being in the moment.” Likewise, Alexa Davies had only lovely things to say about her older self, Julie Walters. “Julie’s been my hero since I’ve been about five years old, and I think I’ve seen everything she’s ever done. So I feel like, when it came to research, I watched every interview she’d ever done especially in the ‘80s, just to see what she was like at that stage in her life. “But it is a really interesting thing; Julie has quite a particular voice that I was really interested in playing around with. And luckily we have quite similar physicality already, in that we both look a bit tired all the time,” she laughed. “But the wonderful thing is that all these young women are amazing characters already there on the page, and the really interesting thing is you think you know everything, and then I met Lily and Jess and that took it up another level.
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