The untold truth of Mamma Mia!

When Mamma Mia! – the 2008 musical flick starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried — was released, the movie was pretty much an instant hit. 

Of course, with an all-star cast including, Streep, Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, and other major stars, it’s easy to see why this fun flick made such a splash. After all, if the impressive roster of stars wasn’t enough to draw a crowd, Mamma Mia! also featured a soundtrack full of uplifting, feel-good mega-hits by the Swedish band, ABBA. Add a goofy plot set on a beautiful Greek island, and voila — you have the winning recipe that made Mamma Mia! such a success.In fact, due to the first film’s popularity, a sequel called Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was released 10 years later in 2018 — adding Lily James, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine to the cast as the younger versions of Meryl Streep’s Donna and her three suitors. 

If you just can’t get enough of the whacky, colorful world of the Mamma Mia! movies, are are looking to discover some behind-the-scenes secrets — you’re in luck. Here’s the untold truth of Mamma Mia!

Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried dated during Mamma Mia!

The first Mamma Mia! film centers around Sophie and Sky, a young couple preparing for their wedding. The lovebirds were played by Amanada Seyfried and Dominic Cooper, and in an adorable turn of events, the two actors actually fell in love during the first movie! 

Sadly, nothing good lasts forever, the couple split up three years after the release of Mamma Mia! However, in the sequel film, the actors had to play a married couple — which meant they each had to tap into those old emotions.

Seyfried told Elle about how it was hard not to slip back into old habits, saying, “You know, it’s very strange having to not be intimate with someone you’ve had an intimate relationship with.” She went on, explaining, “It can be hard but you have to step back and be professional.”  Luckily, there was little to no tension — as it had been ten years since Cooper and Seyfried had been together. “It is a long time and it was nice to spend time [with her],” Cooper explained in an interview with Attitude.

Pierce Brosnan didn't realize who he was playing when he was cast in Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! boasts an incredible cast of very talented performers — including 007 himself! 

Pierce Brosnan plays Sam, one of the three potential fathers featured throughout Mamma Mia! However, many people wouldn’t have pegged Brosnan for a musical film kind of guy — after all, the actor was primarily known for playing James Bond in the 90s. And as it turns out, Brosnan did necessarily picture himself in the role at first, either.

Speaking with Cinema about how he came to be cast, Brosnan revealed that he didn’t know much about the project, but was eager to sign on when he heard Meryl Streep was attached to the film. The producers then sent him to see the stage version of the story, which was an eye-opening experience for Brosnan. “I didn’t know if the story was about ABBA themselves or whatever,” Brosnan explained to Cinema. He continued, saying, “I thought, ‘Oh dear,’ but I also said to myself, ‘Well, it must be good if Meryl Streep has said yes to it.'” Well, he was certainly right about that!

Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried shared a touching mother-daughter bond off-screen while filming Mamma Mia!

As fans Mamma Mia! know, the film follows the relationship between Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, who play mother and daughter, Donna and Sophie Sheridan. And according to the film’s director, Phyllida Lloyd, the off-screen relationship between the two actors was pretty special too.

If you’ve seen the movie even once, you know that Streep singing “Slipping Through My Fingers” as she prepares for her daughter’s wedding is a musical performance guaranteed to make you cry. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Lloyd opened up about how Streep and Seyfried’s special bond helped them film the touching scene. “There was great tenderness between Meryl and Amanda and they both identified strongly with the scene,” Lloyd explained, revealing that the two actors were allowed to come up with their own actions throughout the scene. The director continued, saying, “I just let them improvise as Meryl painted Amanda’s toenails.” 

Apparently, Streep was even the one who came up with the idea to have Seyfried sit on her lap during the heartwarming moment. “It was incredibly touching to watch them doing this scene,” the Lloyd gushed.

Two ABBA band members appear in Mamma Mia!

Both Mamma Mia! movies revolve around the amazing music of ABBA. And as it turns out, the Swedish band was actually pretty involved in the filming process, with some of the band members even appearing as cameos throughout the films. 

For instance, in the first movie, both Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson appeared in the “Dancing Queen” sequence. Andersson can be seen playing piano on the dock, while  Ulvaeus makes an appearance later on in the movie. If you watch closely, he can be spotted as the Greek god in the final credits.

In the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Andersson and Ulvaeus appear again. Andersson is seen once again playing piano; however, Ulvaeus takes on a more surprising role. In the sequel, Ulvaeus is featured as a teacher during the song, “When I Kissed the Teacher.” Don’t blink, and you’ll be able to see him sitting behind Lily James when she bursts into song. Obviously, these musical icons weren’t kidding around when they sang, “Here we go again!” 

They had to shoot the Mamma Mia! wedding dance sequence in one take

In the first Mamma Mia! movie, the entire wedding celebration is kicked up a notch when a crack in the patio breaks and Aphrodite’s fountain explodes, soaking all of the guests with water. Of course, in true Mamma Mia! style, this doesn’t put a damper on the celebrations. Instead, the guests keep on dancing — and the audience is left with a truly iconic moment to remember.

Director Phyllida Lloyd explained to the Daily Mail that this unforgettable scene was actually pretty stressful to shoot. “The stakes were high, because we could only afford to do this scene once,” she explained. The director continued, saying, “You can imagine how long it would take to dry everyone off, and some of the costumes were delicate and there were wigs to consider too.” It’s lucky that none of the actors messed up during this scene! 

Lloyd explained that she used the ABBA song “Hole In Your Soul” to create a sense of “spontaneous euphoria.” That’s fitting, of course, as it’s pretty clear while watching the scene that the actors really are having the time of their lives!

Bill was actually Australian in the original stage version of Mamma Mia!

As Mamma Mia! fans know, one of Sophie Sheridan’s potential fathers is Bill — played by the Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård in the movie. The character has a Swedish accent and can even be seen flying a Swedish flag from his boat. However, it turns out, the character was actually Australian in the original stage version. 

As USA Today pointed out, the choice to change Bill from an Australian to a Swede might be in homage to ABBA, who are Swedish themselves. While Skarsgård is from Sweden, Josh Dylan, who plays the younger version of Bill in the sequel, is from the UK. Skarsgård spoke to The Big Issue about this casting. In fact, as the actor revealed to the publication, Mamma Mia! producers even considered casting one of Skarsgård’s kids to play the younger version of his character. 

“I think they looked at at least one of my sons but they found they actually needed someone who could sing,” Skarsgård joked to The Big Issue

The two Mamma Mia! films were shot in two different countries

Both Mamma Mia! movies take place on a stunning Greek island, and the first movie was actually filmed on location in Greece! However, it may come as a surprise to learn that the sequel was actually filmed on another island — and in a totally different country.

The first movie was shot on three small islands called Skopelos, Skiathos, and Damouchari, as the islands are famous for their beautiful greenery. However, it seems that the producers wanted to try something new for the sequel. All of the Greek island scenes in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again were actually filmed in Croatia. Lily James and Amanda Seyfried spoke to BUILD Series about the experience of living on a tiny Croatian island while filming. Apparently, the whole cast became close, even though their storylines didn’t overlap. 

“There was only a few restaurants,” James explained. Added Seyfried, “Everybody kind of came together.” The Mean Girls star even went on to reminisce about how the whole cast would get drunk together at dinner parties on the island. One thing’s for sure: This all-star cast knows how to have a good time!

Lily James went straight to Glastonbury Festival after her audition for the sequel to Mamma Mia!

In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Lily James plays the younger version of Donna Sheridan. While James didn’t have to audition multiple times to get the role — as she explained to Allure in 2018, she almost lost the part by losing her voice!

As the actress revealed to the publication, she was on route to Glastonbury with her boyfriend when they had to make a pit stop so she could audition. “He pulled over and waited for me while I went in and sang a few Mamma Mia! songs and did a few scenes,” James explained. She continued, saying, “Then I was like, ‘Peace, I’m out,’ and we went to the festival and had the best weekend.” 

Obviously, James didn’t expect to have to sing any Mamma Mia! songs for a while after her audition. So, when she got the part, she was surprised — and hoarse.”My agents rang me on [that] Monday or Tuesday, and I had completely lost my voice,” she confessed. As James told People, she even had to go on vocal rest for a week.

For Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Lily James learned Meryl Streep's performance by heart

To nail her Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again role, Lily James became a student of Meryl Streep’s performance in the first Mamma Mia film.

As James told Allure in 2018, she sat down and watched the original movie “hundreds of times.” She then proceeded to make an audio track of all of Streep’s lines in the movie, so that she could create a believable younger version of the character. “Every moment of that film I know by heart,” James explained to the publication.

While James clearly spent hours and hours learning to mimic Streep as Donna, once she got on set, she tried not to think about Streep too much. “The thing I like about acting is fully surrendering to that moment and not trying to control what happens,” James said. She continued, telling Allure,  “So I think I just forgot to do anything.” Whether James was thinking about the original Donna or not, it’s clear those hours of listening seriously paid off. After all, her Streep impression is flawless!

Julie Walters was made a dame while filming the sequel to Mamma Mia!

In Mamma Mia!, legendary actress Julie Walters plays Donna Sheridan’s longtime friend, Rosie Mulligan. Apparently, however, she had to take some time off during the filming of the sequel for a very special reason. 

In 2017, Walters was made a dame during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Unsurprisingly, according to Walters, the experience was “slightly nerve-wracking” (via BBC). Needless to say, meeting the queen in Buckingham Palace was a serious change of pace compared to Croatian island life she had grown accustomed to while filming the Mamma Mia! sequel.

Soon enough, Walters returned to the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again set, where she was greeted with a surprise from the Mamma Mia! crew. As fellow cast member Christine Baranski told BBC, the cast and crew surprised Walters with a rendition of the song “There Ain’t Nothing Like a Dame.” Apparently, Walters was “so touched” by the gesture. And as fans of this all-star cast, we’re touched by how much these people clearly care about each other!

Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, and Josh Dylan all lived together while filming the sequel to Mamma Mia!

If Mamma Mia! fans need any more proof about how close-knit the actors and crew members were while filming, it turns out three of the young leads actually lived together in a villa while shooting the sequel — Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Lily James and Amanda Seyfried spoke to BUILD Series about how the cast got incredibly close while filming, with James explaining that actors Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine, and Josh Dylan “all lived together in a villa in Vis [Croatia] for six weeks.” Rooming together aside, it’s pretty clear that the lads got on like a house on fire. In a hilarious Elle interview, the three men explained their favorite things about each other, with Dylan telling Irvine and Skinner, “You brighten my life.” Later, Irvine exclaimed, “Let’s just all kiss!” 

Fortunately, it seems that the rest of the cast were thick as thieves, as well. Lily James even posted a photo on Instagram of the cast having dinner — which was cooked by Dylan, Irvine, and Skinner. “Last night the dads cooked,” James captioned her photo. Could this cast be any cuter?

Lily James tripped had to film a dance sequence with a broken toe in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

In the Mamma Mia! sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Lily James is a total force. 

For instance, in the song “Waterloo,” which is performed by Lily James and Hugh Skinner — James spins, flips, and jumps around a restaurant with Skinner. Watching scenes like this, you’d never realize that James did some of the dancing seen in the movie with a broken toe. As James explained to Riyadh Khalaf in an interview, the accident happened when she ran at full pace into some lighting equipment on set. “It fully snapped it back on itself,” she said. Apparently, James didn’t realize it was broken at the time, so they kept shooting. “I was a real soldier, very brave,” James joked. 

Apparently, the injury actually slowed down the filming process (via Daily Mail). Still, the actress seemed to be in good spirits, as she posted a cheery-looking picture on Instagram of the cast celebrating Thanksgiving as she wore a foot brace!

This famous Mamma Mia! cameo was featured in the sequel

Fans of the Mamma Mia! movies are all too familiar with what is arguably one of the most famous cameos in movie musical history. 

In the first movie’s “Dancing Queen” sequence, an old Greek woman is seen walking and carrying a large pile of sticks on her back. When she hears the uplifting sound of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” she tosses the sticks to the ground, and joins in the dancing fray. The famous moment got a mention in a New York Times article about the fantastical, joyous nature of the movie; however, Refinery29 commented that the moment highlighted the slightly problematic depiction of Greek tradition. Whether you liked the moment or not, it seems that just about everyone who sees the movie remembers the old Greek woman with the sticks!

It’s no wonder that the director and producers of the second film wanted the old woman to make a triumphant return in the second movie. And sure enough, when “Dancing Queen” is reprised in the second film, the very same woman appears with her sticks. Talk about a cinematic Easter egg!

The final dance sequence in the Mamma Mia! sequel was improvised

Both Mamma Mia! movies feature stellar credits sequences that are sure to have viewers dancing out of the theaters — or out of their living rooms.

In the first movie, the entire cast danced along to “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo,” all dressed in ’70s inspired sequined outfits. In the second movie, the credit sequence was similar, with the whole cast dancing to “Super Trouper.” However, unlike the dancing in the first film’s credits, the dancing seen in the credits of the sequel was actually all improvised. Awards Daily spoke to Ol Parker, director of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, who said, “When they’re dancing in “Super Trouper,” that’s all real. We played the song loudly and sent them off to different corners.” Parker continued, explaining, “We’d come around and cherry-pick bits of it.” Of course, it’s incredibly funny to imagine the cast members choreographing these segments themselves — especially considering that the older men all are seen drinking beer at the bar! 

Added Parker, “[The cast] just had an absolute hoot.” And we have an absolute hoot watching them!

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