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shadows features The girls of summer
Laughing with the cast and creators of Mamma Mia! • Page 2 of 2
introducing the film at the world premiere

bjorn and benny

cooper and skarsgard baranski and firth

cooper and seyfried

B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
mamma mia Amanda: Sometimes I felt like I was trying to come on set and be serious because I'd have all these scenes with talented actors. But really, I felt like I was the serious adult and everybody was just having the time of their life. Eventually I came to a more relaxed place and was able to join in on the fun. But in the beginning I was really nervous.

Christine: I think that the quality of your relationship when the camera's not rolling - and the way you just relate and have fun and mix it up and let go of your inhibitions and trust other people - that all shows up. It just shows up on camera - that sparkle in your eye when you're really listening to the other person. And I think we made that a priority.

We were a company, we lived together. I couldn’t get rid of these people!

Amanda: I feel the more you laugh with someone off camera the easier it is to make something work. When you're in the zone with somebody, you're sharing something with the other person. We just all laughed more than I ever did before.

Meryl: People in plays get to have this experience all the time. With most movies, people fly in and do their bit and then fly out, and then other people have their scenes and then leave. But with this one, because we were incarcerated in that barn, trying to learn Voulez-Vous for three weeks before shooting started. That's all we thought about: Voulez-Vous. I didn't have time to worry about anything else. And Colin Firth was so worried about it, Stellan Skarsgard was beside himself, Pierce was drenched in sweat every day. But we all bonded over that. We were a company, we lived together. I couldn't get rid of these people!

Christine: There was a summer camp quality to this. There definitely was: let's put on a show, and then we get to go on the island.

Meryl: They saved the best part for the end - when we went to Greece, and they put us in the most beautiful places in the northern Aegean.

And now that it's finished, how does she think her kids will react to seeing their mother sing and dance on screen?

My children have already had their mortification moments about me in the white spandex

Meryl: I'm not nervous about my kids seeing the film. I was, but then I showed them all the stills, and they've already had their mortification moments about me in the white spandex. They have to get over this. I can't wait for them to see it - it's like we did it for our daughters, right?

Christine: Yeah.

Meryl: And my son will be - I don't know - proud! But I think he'll actually like it, because he's a musician and he’ll get a kick out of it. He appreciates the music. This music is much trickier and sort of more precise than I thought when I first thought I knew every word and sang along with the radio. I got all the lyrics wrong, and some of the pitches! Working on it made me appreciate so much more how sharp it is.


And then it was time to meet the boys, and the actors come into the room looking a bit sheepish, which is kind of how they look in the film. They continually exchange knowing glances that betray a hint of nervousness, because we're the only handful of people who have already seen them singing and dancing on screen. There's a clear sense of team spirit - they've all been through this together and are now, as it were, facing the music together.

As Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth both look extremely nervous about how we have accepted them as singers, Stellan Skarsgard slouches over the table in comical style, continually cracking little jokes. In the middle, Dominic Cooper just looks overwhelmed by the company around him at the table.

Meanwhile, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are looking relaxed and little cheeky, clearly enjoying the life in their songs. They wrote them back in the 1970s and thought the break-up of Abba was the end of it.

Bjorn: We really thought Abba was dead when we broke up in 1981 or 1982. And then when Abba Gold came out in 1989, we realised there was life in this corpse yet. And the play ten years later breathed a whole new life into it, so the film was a logical next step.

Benny: Our one requirement was that every actor could all sing. So we met and auditioned all of them, or watched videotapes, like Pierce singing in Evelyn. We auditioned Stellan over the phone.

Stellan: Yeah, I handed the phone to a friend!

So which one of these songs has a special place in their hearts?

Bjorn: We don't really have a favourite song - we have favourites from each stage of Abba. We worked to push things with each record, to find something new, so you can't compare songs from the early years with later ones.

After several weeks of rehearsals for Voulez-Vous, I realised I would never get it

Benny: Some of them are beautifully produced, but not great songs, and others are great songs, but not so well performed. Those two things came together best, perhaps, for Knowing Me, Knowing You and The Winner Takes It All.

And the mere mention of the words Voulez-Vous send shivers through the four actors, who clearly share the girls' feelings about that number.

Stellan: After several weeks of rehearsals for Voulez-Vous, I realised I would never get it. But then I realised that they would be shooting either my face or my feet, but never both at the same time. So when they were shooting my face I just pretended to be doing the dance moves, and when they were shooting my feet, I could look down and concentrate so I got my feet moving in the right way.

Pierce: Every time I got nervous about what was ahead I thought, well, Meryl is doing it! But the music is just so much fun - I had the time of my life on this set. It was great. The Winner Takes It All was magical - it was just me and Meryl, and I had a couple of lines then stepped back and was an audience of one for that amazing performance in that amazing setting. The camera was rolling around on a half-moon shaped dolly, but I hardly noticed it.

And the costumes also provided some nervousness for the actors.

Dominic: They waited until very late in the rehearsal process to tell me that I was going to be naked in most of the movie. I worked out as much as I could, but in the end had to go on one of those shaking machines. I was amazed that it worked!

Colin: They waited until the last minute to tell us about those spandex jumpsuits too! But then, we're actors, and it's every actor's dream to put on a glamorous frock and mince about.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, LONDON, 30.JUN.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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