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Pierce Brosnan, Andy Garcia, ABBA, Stellan Skarsgard and the men of Mamma Mia 2 reveal all

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The lovely men of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again had just as much to dish on the exciting new film as their female counterparts!

Ol Parker takes the helm in directing the sequel, as he explains: “I just had an email from Richard [Curtis] that just said “Random question, do you like ABBA?” and I wrote back “Who doesn’t?” and I thought he was going to invite me to dinner with Benny [Andersson] and Bjorn [Ulvaeus], because that’s how he rolls. And then he wrote, “follow up question, would you like to write the sequel?” and I said “yes, that’d be lovely thank you” … not that it was up to him to offer the job.

“And Scarlett, Curtis’ extraordinary daughter, had the idea to do a prequel in the sequel, she’d suggested that it be Godfather 2. And that’s what he gave me. And then I came up with the story, and Richard and I spent a very happy time together in his caravan, in the countryside, and we put all our favourite songs up on the wall, and just tried to zigzag around them and crowbar them in. I mean, Andy [Garcia]’s character was created specifically so that Cher could sing Fernando to him!”

“Having the songs is important to build the story around,” agrees Andersson, “because the lyrics in the songs are moving the story forwards. Then we had a script from Mr. Parker, and we swapped one or two of the songs.”

“I think the reason it took ten years to get back here is that not every story needs another chapter,” explains the director, “not every film needs an encore, not every film needs a sequel. And so, I think it was about finding a way to tell the most emotional and impactful and meaningful story, and I just think it took a while to find that.

“I think all these guys, all the legacy cast, and Benny and Bjorn too, they all have enough integrity, and frankly enough money, as much as they wanted to do a sequel, not to need to do it. And they were very keen not to sully the memory of the first one. And so, it was about finding a way to come back and tell a story worth telling.”

The story has so much emotion and heart, which Parker credits to the first film. “I had the great gift of writing a sequel with some already known, already loved characters, so there’s so much to build on. It’s not 0 to 60; you start at 60 and crack on from there, which is a great gift and a tribute to the actors and the music that we do.”

Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Not only did Mamma Mia change the musical film genre, but some people even claim that it changed, and sometimes saved, their lives. Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of the members of ABBA, is clearly humbled by the impact his music has had: “The fact that I’m sitting here today – I shouldn’t be sitting here today, because I thought that our music would go into oblivion like two years after we split up, and that’s some 35 years ago. I’m just very humbled and grateful, for sure.”

On a more light-hearted note, both Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard, members of the original cast, talked about how great it was to get into the swing of the music, outfits, and dancing. “You have no idea how much spandex flatters your genitals,” stated Skarsgard, enthusiastically.

After a moment’s pause, Brosnan affirmed, “This is a movie that I shall forever cherish in my heart. It was magical to do it ten years ago, and it’s incredible to go around the world and to see the joy it brought to people’s lives. And to have that in your career, to have that gift, inspires nothing but gratitude, really.”

“I showed up for work on the first day and there was beautiful Julie, and Christine, and about 200 dancers in the olive groves, and five or six cameras,” Brosnan continues. “And it was Dancing Queen and you just had to dance, and Amanda was in front, and Ol said “Ok well, just dance” and the next thing I knew I was skipping. I was skipping for weeks on end, and I tried various variations of skipping, but in the end it was just good old Irish skipping. And that’s it; you’ve got to throw yourself into this. You cannot be shy. It was brilliant, and just the warmth of everybody and the friendships that have been created, from the first movie to this movie, is just wonderful to see. And this man here, Ol, gave us all the space and the place to be ourselves and enjoy the moment.”

Meanwhile, “It was a great privilege really [to be serenaded by Cher],” said Andy Garcia. “We’re all such huge fans of Cher, not only as a singer but an actress, so when they approached me to be a part of it I was very excited. I learned shortly after that Cher had picked me out of a bunch, so that was doubly a blessing for me – I have such respect for her. All the people in the cast – some of them were old friends like Stellan, and some of them were people I’ve admired throughout my life, so I’m blessed to be here.”

“It’s funny seeing Andy now, knowing that he’s Fernando,” Ulvaeus chimes in. “I conjured up that guy fourty years ago, lying on my jetty looking at a starry sky, writing about Fernando the freedom fighter, and right now Andy is him.”

Asked further about working with Cher, Garcia continued to praise the singer and actress. “Cher is extremely down to earth. One of the things I’ve always found attractive about her, even in her early days of television – she always showed an extraordinary talent as an actress – but her sense of humour, the dryness in her sense of humour to me is so engaging, and she has that – she’s so present in life, she’s so aware of everything, and her commentary on things is very funny.”

This sequel, rather than being filmed in Greece as the first one was, was actually done in Croatia. When asked about why, Parker said that “It wasn’t my decision, it was above my pay grade. It was an economic decision, and a shame I think. I think the one thing Greece really needs at the moment is an injection of money and tourism.”

The musical numbers obviously being a large part of the film’s appeal, it’s no surprise the cast was asked about their performances. Hugh Skinner, who plays the younger Harry, praised the choreography of Anthony Van Laast, stating he was “very good at choreographing to individual abilities. Which is why you can see some people cart-wheeling and flipping, and I’m playing a baguette and riding a trolley. But it was fun!”

Garcia and Cher’s memorable ‘Fernando’ performance was “such a powerful love song of longing and trying to remember those moments in life that meant so much to you – not only the connection and the love side, but they were so involved in this hypothetical revolution together, so this is heavy stuff. So I just tried to lose myself in that as deeply as I could, and hopefully the acting gods would inspire you in that moment right before the take.

“Because film is not like theatre; you’re gearing up for that one little moment, you only get to explore the character in a very short amount of time and in a couple of takes, and then it’s gone. So you try and time yourself to set everything up for that expiration to have resonance. But the song takes you there – the story and the song gives you the challenge – it’s like Robert Browning said, one’s reach should be greater than his grasp, or what’s the heaven for. And the story of Fernando and Ruby is a very intense back-story, and you just try to reach for it as best you can.”

“In terms of Andy getting into it,” says Parker, “at the end of the movie his job was to help Cher up the steps and onto the stage. And he was like “What do I do now?” and I said “I guess you just melt away” and he said “I’d really like to stay and dance”. So if you watch the movie again, behind Cher’s left shoulder is Andy getting down. And it was a testament both to him but also that’s what everybody did, that was the extraordinary thing about doing this.”

The young cast of Skinner, Josh Dylan and Jeremy Irvine were also asked about how they made the roles their own, taking over from such iconic actors as Colin Firth, Skarsgard and Brosnan. “Well we didn’t want to do impressions,” stated Dylan. “We spoke about that early on – because we couldn’t do them justice is why. But you have to look at accent and stuff, but a certain amount of freedom is good, is helpful.”

“I asked them all to study their legacy counterparts, and then chuck it out the window, unless they can use it at any point. When you can bring it in, it’s brilliant, but don’t force it,” was Parker’s advice.

It not being the first collaboration between Parker and Irvine, the latter was keen to work with the director again. “I think what Ol’s done that is so, so clever here is that you take a movie like this… he’s given it such an emotional heart with a movie that appeals to so many people. I think you can’t underestimate the skill that that takes. The first time we watched the film together, there were people in the audience who laughed and also cried, and I think that’s amazing that you can make an audience feel that moved and connected to the characters.”

Garcia is clearly equally smitten with Parker’s work. “We’ve all had the blessing, a lot of the older guys at the table, to be working in this art form for many years, and experience a lot of directors over the years. And Ol is really an extraordinarily sensitive individual, so in tune with what’s going on with you as an actor, in a very effortless way.

“The one thing I could say, is that every time I would do something he would come and say “That was brilliant, that was brilliant!”, but then he would also say that when they brought him a cup of tea. So quickly I was reduced down to the level of a hot cup of tea, so I didn’t know how to process his support. But I would say that Ol is one of the great experiences I’ve had over the years, and I’ve had many.”

A great musical number to look forward to when seeing Mamma Mia 2 is ‘One of Us’. As Dominic Cooper describes, “I was honoured when I read the script to realise that that was the song that I’d been given, which wasn’t originally a duet and was made so for the film. I loved the song already, and then noticed quite quickly how difficult it was to sing.

“What I was made aware of yet again, by how incredible this music is and how it has spanned more generations than anything – the fact that 5 year olds know all the lyrics and so do 65 year olds – and it’s a very emotive song, and when I was slightly struggling with it in the studio, Benny was there that day… I was feeling quite emotional anyway but I just wasn’t managing it.

“It was being in the studio, you have a glass box in front of you, and then you have ABBA watching you destroy their pieces of art, and you start sweating and panicking and feeling nauseous. And then actually, Benny came out and said “You’ve sung this perfectly before,” and he got behind the grand piano, and said “just relax, and sing how you normally do.” And he built a temporary booth and we put up some sound boards, and we recorded it like that.

“It was a joy and a pleasure to be instructed by one of the creators of this piece of music, and I constantly feel utterly honoured having been allowed to sing any of the music. And as we were saying earlier, nothing has greater impact – and I’ve realised this more and more each day after the ten years of having done the first – how incredibly this has impacted people’s lives, through extraordinarily tough moments.

“And we are just a small fraction of that in terms of making the film, the music has done that since 1974, and that is quite an astonishing thing. It’s like a classical piece of artwork, or a wonderful novel, it’s art – it’s saved people, it’s affected people. And sure, I thought this is massive, this is for fun, this is a laugh, it’s something to enjoy, which we all did, but I only now realise – and more so with this film, which embedded even more reflection and reaffirms what we do in life and what happens to us, and the emotional journey we embark upon from the moment we’re here, and I think that to have that impact on people, and to have helped save people, is an astonishing thing that we are all lucky enough to have stolen a bit off from you [Bjorn].”

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is out in cinemas this Friday, 20th, distributed by Universal. 

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