Mamma Mia! Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Colin Firth etc

Daily Mail: Mamma Mia, Meryl gets to snog Bond! (4-13-07)

MAMMA Meryl Streep starts learning the lip lock with Pierce Brosnan soon.

The Oscar-winning actress will begin crooning with the former 007 star in London at the begining of vocal rehearsals for the movie based on the mega-hit stage musical Mamma Mia!, featuring the songs of Abba, in which Meryl plays free-spirit Donna, whose daughter, Sophie, decides to get married.

One of the musical's main strands involves Donna's three former suitors, each of whom could be Sophie's father.

Brosnan will play rugged Sam and, I'm told, the film will focus more on his romance with Donna.

Colin Firth has been confirmed to play 'headbanger' Harry, while Stellan Skarsgard, a popular actor thanks to his Bootstrap Bill in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, is in final negotiations to play Bill.

Interestingly, the part was earmarked for his Pirates co-star Bill Nighy, but he has other plans.

An executive on the picture observed: 'You'll certainly be able to tell that Donna slept with all of them.' Meryl, a trained singer, will sing SOS with Brosnan, before going on to warble numbers with her character's close friends, and onetime pop group members, being played by Julie Walters (Rosie) and Christine Baranski (Tanya).

By the way, Ms Baranski played the harddrinking Maryann in the Nineties TV sitcom Cybill (opposite Cybill Shepherd) and I recall Mamma Mia! boss Judy Craymer, who is also producing the film, telling me how Maryann was the inspiration for some of Tanya's character traits.

Three songs from the stage show - still enjoying a moneymaking run in the West End, now with Linzi Hateley - have been dropped - Thank You For The Music, Under Attack and Knowing Me, Knowing You, although the movie introduces another Abba number, When All Is Said And Done.

Later this month, the whole cast of the film, including Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper, as the engaged couple, will be in London to record the score, then full rehearsals begin with director Phyllida Lloyd in May before ten weeks of filming at Pinewood in June, followed by five weeks' location shooting on a Greek island.

Svenska Dagbladet: Excerpts from interview with Björn Ulvaeus (2-18-07)

Now there will be a Mamma Mia movie, with Meryl Streep in the leading part and Tom Hanks, who has seen the musical 8-10 times, as a producer. Björn and Benny are at the moment writing the soundtrack. The music will be recorded once again, and some songs that aren’t in the musical will be added, for example “When all is said and done”. A new movie script has been written by Catherine Johnson, who also wrote the stage version of Mamma Mia!

"We’re shooting in London and in the Greek archipelago, which gives us very beautiful pictures that we couldn’t get in a theatre. The plot and the story are quite intact, and the movie will hit the screens in the summer of 2008. A short while ago Benny Andersson was in New York together with Meryl Streep to pick the keys. 

The Sunday Mirror: Nice One, Pierce (6-10-07)

EX-007 Pierce Brosnan looks like he's really got over losing his Licence to Kill - he's swapping his tough guy act for song-and-dance.

The 54-year-old Navan man is making a film version of the musical Mamma Mia with Meryl Streep and Julie Waters.

"The great Meryl and I do a lot of singing and dancing. I'm good at it, even at my age. The knees are still good, the back is still good."

And, probably most importantly, Pierce adds: "The ego is fine."

Belfast Today: Oscar winner boosts new arts centre plan (8- 20-07)
By Phil Crossey


The star [Meryl Streep] came to Northern Ireland on a break from filming Mamma Mia, a big-screen adaptation of the musical based on the songs of Abba.

"It's fun, but then it should be fun, I'm working with some incredible leading men – Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Colin Firth – and I'm getting paid," she said with a laugh. 

While it may seem a frivolous film for someone known for more serious roles, Meryl said: "To anyone who knows me well it's not a surprise that I took this part.

"I started out in musical theatre but then did lots of other things.

"In fact, I even looked down on musicals for a while, but I came home at the end.

"I really love singing and, well, maybe not dancing," she said.

Mirror: Pierce Is Licensed To Trill (9-19-07)

BOND star Pierce Brosnan goes from a killer to a triller as he belts out a duet with Meryl Streep.

The giggling pair took the mike at a pre-production party for their new movie Mamma Mia.

They delighted the rest of the cast and crew with a series of Abba hits, including SOS, at the bash on the Greek island of Skopelos.

And just to make sure they kept the beat, Abba star Benny Andersson - executive producer of the screen version of the hit musical - accompanied them on piano.

The film, being shot in London and Greece, is a big departure for Hollywood tough guy Pierce.

But insiders are already tipping it to be a massive hit when it is released in October next year. Maybe they should rename it Goldsinger.

Bristol Evening Post: Thank you for the musical (11-25-07)
By: Natalie Hale

Natalie Hale talks to the Bristol-based playwright who, against all the odds, wrote one of the world's biggest shows Catherine Johnson was a single mother of two who'd left school at 16 and, when it came to money, often struggled to keep her head above water.

Today she is a multi-millionairess, acclaimed playwright and author of one of the best-loved musicals of all time.


And now the musical has recently been adapted into a film starring such A-list stars as Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

"The film is now in the can and will be released next summer" Catherine confides. "Phylida, who directed the original stage show, has also directed the movie. It's her first movie, and she has done a brilliant job.

"We have a phenomenal cast. They are all so magical on screen. Some of the moments between Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan just make you gasp.

"I've only seen rough cuts, but it looks like it's going to be a film that I'll be very proud of."

Sydney Sunday Telegraph: Mamma Mia! Movie (4-20-08)

Summer Night City



Pierce Brosnan is looking nervous. He may have fought all manner of Bond villains on this very spot in his former incarnation as 007, but today he faces a far more formidable foe - ABBA. A few metres away, Colin Firth is also looking less than relaxed, silently mouthing the words to the Swedish foursome's classic Voulez-Vous and occasionally trying out some tentative dance steps. lt's all you can do not to stare, such is the surprise at seeing Firth, the actor best known for playing the uptight Mr Darcy in both the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice and the Bridget Jones films, attempting to trip the light fantastic.

Suddenly, silence is demanded and the familiar cry of "Action!” echoes around the set. The distinctive opening bars of Voulez-Vous start up - for what must be the 30th time today - and Firth and

Brosnan join Meryl Streep, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, plus assorted deeply termed co-stars and extras, in singing, dancing and generally making merry in a Greek village square. It’s quite infectious stuff and, when director Phyllida Lloyd yells " Cut," you cannot wait for them to do it all again. (And in case you’re wondering, Brosnan end Firth pull off their respective solo parts with aplomb, despite their earlier nerves.)

Unfortunately, we're not in Greece at all - rather on the massive 007 Stage at England's Pinewood Studios. Outside it’s cold and grey, but inside the giant shed - which had to be rebuilt after fire ripped through it in July 2006 – it’s a balmy 30 degrees. It’s not too hard to imagine we're sitting under some fragrant pink bougainvillea outside a taverna on a Greek island - a feeling helped by the moonlight twinkling over the shimmering blue sea in the

distance. The spell is only broken when an English crew member clambers up the nearby ‘cliff' and yells, “Oi, John. Can you chuck me a spanner?”

Brosnan, Firth, Streep and co are at Pinewood to make a film version of the smash-hit musical Mamma Mia!, which, since opening in London’s West End in April 1999, has been seen by a staggering 30 million people worldwide. In Australia alone, the show had a record-breaking four-year run across the country, before closing in June 2005. The Aussie audience were part of more than two million people who saw the show across Australasia. “I think we'd exhausted everyone in the country by then," laughs Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer, ”but there's talk of bringing it back, which would be great."

In the meantime, we have the movie version to look forward to which, like the musical, has been a labour of love for Craymer. She's the woman who

first persuaded ABBA's Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus to allow their precious songs to be made into a musical, although she admits she never imagined it would become the juggernaut it is today “I definitely had no ambition or vision that we'd be here, making a movie," she says.

Not that Andersson and Ulvaeus were easily won over. After their less-than-successful first foray into theatre musicals, with Chess - on which Craymer worked as Tim Rice’s executive producer – the Swedish pair were reluctant to do it again, especially as the ABBA revival was yet to happen. (At that point, it was the late-80s and ABBA, who finally split in '82, were still considered a naff '70s pop group.)

But Craymer was convinced the lyrical nature of ABBA's songs would lend themselves to a musical with an original story as opposed to a musical ABBA story. “It was 'The Winner Takes it All' that suggested to me the potential of .an original musical using Benny and Björn's classic compositions," remembers Craymer. “The lyrics tell a roller-coaster story of love and loss. It's extraordinarily theatrical."

But it wasn't until 1995, after the popularity of the 1992 compilation album ABBA GOLD and films such as Muriel s Wedding and “The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” in which ABBA's music featured prominently - that Andersson and Ulvaeus admitted Craymer might be on to something.

Enter writer Catherine Johnson, who came up with the story of Sophie, a young bride-to-be, who, in a bid to discover the identity of her father, invites three men from her mother Donna's past back to the Greek island they visited 20 years before. Throw in a smorgasbord of ABBA hits, from Take a Chance on Me and SOS to Dancing Queen and, of course, 'The Winner Takes it All', and Craymer was proved right, not to mention in the “money, money. money'. (Although not before she'd sold her flat, racked up a huge overdraft and endured many sleepless nights.)

Mamma Mia! has now been seen in more than 160 cities since that first show nine years ago (as well as the more permanent productions, a touring company visits smaller cities for shorter stints) and has been performed in nine languages.

Back on the Pinewood set, Brosnan - who plays potential dad Sam Carmichael – chuckles at the irony of being back where he made his four Bond films. “As soon as I arrived, all the ghosts evaporated," he says. “There's an irony in the first film on the new 007 Stage being Mamma Mia!. I had this image of myself walking across the set in my Mamma Mia! outfit and seeing Daniel Craig hanging butchly from a crane or something."

Brosnan admits he hadn't seen Mamma Mia! before he was approached for the part. 'They just said, 'Meryl Streep... Mamma Mia!' and I said, “I’m in.” He wasn’t a big fan of musicals before he saw it in London (unlike Streep, who’d seen the Broadway production five years prior and loved it so much she wrote to the cast to tell them how great they were). “Ironically, the day I went to see Mamma Mia! was the day after my father's funeral. His name was Bill Carmichael, so it was rather poignant when this character came out and said his name was Sam Carmichael and he mentioned some bagpipes – the day before, I'd been sending off my father with some bagpipes. It was almost meant to be. I'm a great believer in fate.

"I went into the theatre that night with a cynical, jaded eye. But, 15 minutes in, I was in the heart of the piece. The show seems to make people feel great."

Firth admits he wasn't a fan of musicals, either. They're not my first choice of entertainment, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I thought it was absolutely wonderful. And it's largely due to the power of the songs; they're not as straightforward as they might initially seem."

He was attracted to the role of Harry Bright, another of Donna's ex-boyfriends, because of the appeal of “going into the unfamiliar territory" of a musical. "I don't watch BBC costume dramas, either," .he smiles, referring to his role in Pride and Prejudice.

All the actors have already laid down their main vocals with Andersson and Ulvaeus in a recording studio; a process most describe as intimidating".

“The night before, I was faintly terrified," admits Brosnan. “l was up at 2am in my hotel room, singing into the mirror. But Benny and Björn couldn't have been more charming. There were these guys, who I'd seen over the years, sitting at the piano and they just said, ‘Let's sing!' I actually found it exhilarating."

Over on one side of the set, actor Christine Baranski is repeatedly practising her part from 'Voulez-Vous'. She's particularly pleased to have been cast in the movie because Johnson originally based her character (Tanya) on Maryann, Baranski's character in the TV show Cybill. "It’s like it's come full circle. I have the chance to work with Meryl Streep and sing Does Your Mother Know?' on a beach in Greece with 30 male dancers. I don't see a downside to this job," gushes Baranski.

In another corner, actor Amanda Seyfried (Sophie) and up-and-coming English thespian Dominic Cooper (who plays her fiancé, Sky) are gossiping and giggling between takes, looking very comfortable in their roles as husband and wife-to-be. Although Cooper says he was very surprised to land the role (“I can't sing,” he insists), Craymer says he was cast because he is “traditionally handsome but off-the-wall, and full of charm and charisma."

As for Seyfried, best known for her role in SBS's polygamy drama, Big Love, she was chosen because “she’s the ‘idyllic dream’ - blonde, pretty and minxy. "When we were casting, we were looking for actors who had great chemistry to capture the energy of the show," says Craymer. “We’ve staged Mamma Mia! very successfully around the world with incredibly stars, so to be making a movie with the likes of Meryl, Pierce, Julie, Christine, Stellan and Colin is a bit of ‘I have a dream' sequence."

This is the third day the cast have been sheeting the ‘Voulez-Vous' number, in which the characters of Brosnan, Firth and Skarsgard (who plays the third potential father candidate, Bill) discover why Sophie has brought them to the (fictional) Greek island of Kalokairi. Each actor's solo is filmed from different angles, plus there are numerous takes of the final chorus with the whole cast, before Streep's character, Donna, collapses when she comes face-to-face with her three exes.

Firth admits it's difficult to extract the ABBA songs out of his head when he finishes filming for the day. “I think they'll have to arrange a special 12-step program for all of us," he jokes. “It’s incredible the effect they have. You’ll be carrying ‘Voulez-Vous' for days, whether you like it or not."

All the cast and crew are looking forward to production shifting to the real Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos, where exterior scenes will be filmed. Production designer Maria Djurkovic, responsible for the overall look of the film, chose the islands because they feature a “sexy lushness we felt was necessary. There’s a certain theatricality to the locations; we’ve found some spectacular spots. They're terribly beautiful."

According to Craymer, "Hollywood has been after Mamma Mia! for years, but it's only now they've felt the time was right to make a film. “Phyllida (Lloyd, the director), Catherine and I are 50 this year, so we thought we'd better get on with it," she laughs. “I also felt we'd reached the time when the musical could sit happily side by side with a film. Thirty years ago, you never did a film before a musical had finished its life in the theatre, but things have changed. Chicago showed me that an audience was happy to see both.

But protective of their baby to the end, a film would only be made if Craymer, Lloyd and Johnson were at the helm, a situation Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, was happy to go along with. “The film is a fantastic way to mark our upcoming 10th anniversary. That said, we're still opening the musical in new territories as well," adds Craymer. lt seems the sky's the limit for Mamma Mia!

In the absence of Andersson and Ulvaeus, it’s only fitting we leave it to the cast's token Swede (Skarsgard) to try to sum up the appeal of the musical - even if he was not originally an ABBA fan. “I like their music much better than l did 20 or 30 years ago," he says, in his heavily accented English. '“It has a very friendly quality. It’s silly but it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's good fun - I see Björn and Benny's very nice faces smiling at you throughout the performance."

Mamma Mia! opens in cinemas from July 10.