Second Mamma Mia! movie poster

MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIEA second poster for MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE has appeared this week. This poster appears to be for the US market, and is closer to the original musical poster concept.

I much prefer the first teaser poster that appeared in January. It was vibrant, slightly reminsicent of the musical poster, but featured both female leads. This new poster appears weak and pale by comparison, and aims the movie at people who might see a Lindsay Lohan or Olsen twins film.

See the two posters side-by-side and more at ABBA World‘s special MAMMA MIA! section. Click on the poster, then follow the link on the main page.


3 Responses to “Second Mamma Mia! movie poster”

  1. Ian Cole Says:

    See icethesite for another view on the new poster.

  2. Samuel Inglles Says:

    Hi IAN

    Here’s more ‘Mamma Mia!-The Movie’ related articles.

    Kind Regards
    Samuel Inglles

    New Idea – 5 July 2008 (Pages 24-25)

    ABBA-SOLUTELY FAB! From 007 to dancing queen, Pierce Brosnan is trying something new.

    Best known for his role as James Bond in the 007 flicks, it’s hardly surprising that Pierce Brosnan is met with bemused looks when he tells people about his next role.

    ‘When people ask what I’m doing next and I say ‘Mamma Mia!’, a look of shock comes across their faces,’ he admits. ‘Then they ask: “Do you sing?” So far I’ve gotten away with it.’

    Pierce’s decision to take part in the film – which is based on the musical inspired by ABBA’s songs, and opens in cinemas on July 10 – was easy.

    ‘What a kick in the pants to be able to go off and spend time with Meryl Streep on a Greek island and sing ABBA tunes,’ he says. ‘These are great roles for people of a certain age, and to work with Meryl has long been a dream of mine.’

    Pierce was aware that if he wanted a career post-Bond, he needed to expand himself.

    ‘I guess I had painted myself into a corner with suave and debonair,’ he says. ‘Since Bond I’ve gotten out there and done a bit of character work. The Bond years were marvelous, but 007 was only part of what’s been a long career.’

    At 55, Irish-born Pierce is now one of Hollywood’s old guard. So how does he feel about growing more mature in a youth-obsessed industry?

    ‘It’s glorious and frightening. But you have to embrace it – there’s not much you can do about it. You’d die of an ulcer if you worried about it,’ he says.

    His beloved first wife, Aussie actress Cassandra Harris, died in 1991. Ten years later Pierce married fellow environmentalist Keeley Shaye Smith, and the couple have two children, Dylan, 11, and Paris, seven.

    Pierce says fatherhood the second time – he also had a son with Cassie and adopted her two older children – keeps him young. ‘It’s given me more enjoyment and a wonderful sense of accomplishment,’ he says. ‘I have more patience now and I’m in awe of the process of life.’

    As for his wife, he’s as in love with her now as he was the day he met her.

    “The trick is to sustain the romance and passion, and that happens only through imagination, perseverance and respect.

    I’m the luckiest of men. I’ve known true love – great love – twice. I’m so happy being the man I am, with the life I have,’ he admits.

    TV Week – 12-18 July 2008 (Pages 90 & 91)


    One big, fat ABBA wedding! – We chat to Amanda Seyfried and her co-stars about their new flick, ‘Mamma Mia!’, based on the hit stage musical. By Jenny Cooney Carrillo and Rachel Smith


    Question: Amanda, for those who haven’t seen the show, what’s the story about?
    Answer: It’s about a girl and her mother who live on a Greek island. Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, has raised Sophie alone – there’s never been a father in the picture. It’s hard for her to bring it up with her mom, who’s always shushed it off as a fling, but she finds out who her potential fathers could be by looking through her mother’s diary. She then invites them all to her wedding, without telling Donna.

    Q: You trained as a singer – why haven’t we heard about that until now?
    A: I stopped singing when I was 17 because I moved to New York and made a conscious choice to pursue acting. But singing was my first love, the thing I was really passionate about. I wanted to be on Broadway and be in an opera. I had dreams, but nothing really came about.

    Q: How nerve-racking were auditions?
    A: They were scary! I needed to show them I was a strong singer and could sing ABBA. It’s funny because the recording of the soundtrack all happened in a couple of days, way before we started shooting. So, although singing was a big part of the auditions, it was only a part of the experience in the beginning.

    Q: What was it like living in Greece during the film shoot?
    A: I lived there a little short of a month. It was hard to go to work at 5 a.m. when the sun’s not even up, the bay’s all windy and you’re driving past these beautiful views. We worked six-day weeks, as well! The one day we had off, we partied like there was no tomorrow.


    English actor Dominic Cooper – who plays the groom, Sky – was virtually unknown when his audition chemistry with co-star Amanda Seyfried landed him the role. As well as an episode of the series ‘Jericho’, Dominic had only appeared in the film ‘The History Boys’ and the mini-series ‘Sense And Sensibility’, so he was understandably overwhelmed on set.

    “Suddenly, I’m in Greece with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, learning how to sing ABBA songs like a pop star, and trying to act like I’m not out of my league,” he laughs. “But it turned out to be the time of our lives!”


    ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus served as executive producers on the film, worked with the cast on recording the songs, and even made a cameo.

    “We all knew Meryl Streep was a great actress,” Benny says, “but who knew she could sing like this?”

    Björn adds, “People asked us why we didn’t choose professional singers, but we had a say in casting and if they couldn’t sing, they couldn’t be in the movie.

    “It’s interesting to see actors perform your songs,” Björn continues. “They have the tools to express the emotions that are within the songs, so it brings a whole new element to them.”


    Meryl Streep isn’t a likely choice to star in an ABBA songs musical, but it seems the Oscar winner has a secret singing past.

    “I got into musicals in high school and hadn’t gone back since, so it was a dream to do this movie,” Meryl explains. “I saw the stage show seven years ago in New York, right after the World Trade Centre came down. I took my 10-year-old daughter [Louisa] for her birthday to cheer us all up, and we came out elated and floating on air. It taps into the joy of living, so I savoured every moment when they asked me to play Donna.”

    Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’s’ Stellan Skarsgård play Sophie’s three prospective fathers – and they all sing, as well.

    I’m the last man you expect to see singing and dancing, and I’ve never been so nervous about a job,” Pierce confesses. “But it was Meryl Streep, the music of ABBA, a chance to film in Greece, then at Pinewood studios in London, where I’d shot the Bond films, and flounce around in spandex and platform shoes with a couple of other boys!”

    The London shoot Pierce is referring to is the film’s curtain call, where the main cast – including Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, who play Donna’s best friends – don outrageous ABBA-style outfits and perform a couple of the band’s best-known tunes.

    “Who knew how painful spandex was?” Pierce laughs, while Stellan admits, “The first time the three of us looked at each other in all that get-up, we felt we’d never work again, but it was the joy of allowing yourself to be silly that was just so liberating.”

    The Hollywood A-listers also worked with the choreographer and musical director from the ‘Mamma Mia!’ stage musical to ensure they would look and sound like the professionals who made up the ensemble cast.

    “There were some nerve-racking moments over the singing because we didn’t want to disappoint Benny and Björn,” Colin admits. “When Pierce and I were recording ‘Waterloo’ in a studio with Benny behind the glass, we talked about how bizarre it was to be singing ABBA songs in front of him. Then Benny said, ‘It’s so bizarre to watch Mr Darcy and James Bond sing ‘Waterloo’!”

    Photos: (1) Benny and Björn: Over 30 million people have seen the smash-hit stage musical, and they have similar hopes for the film. (2) Pierce says he “said yes [to the role] right away because it meant working with Meryl Streep”. (3) Dominic and the ‘Big Love’ actress had chemistry on-and-off-screen, indulging in a brief fling during filming. (4) Meryl says she relied on some rusty cheerleading skills for some of the dance sequences. (5) It was rumoured that, out of Stellan, Pierce and Colin, Mr Darcy had the worst dance-floor moves.

    Hollywood diary with Jenny Cooney Carrillo. (Page 101)

    Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of my idols, including Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Kirk Douglas, and it’s always a relief to discover they’re as classy and charming as I’d hoped. Without naming names, others have gone out of their way to be rude and arrogant, so it was with some trepidation that I flew to Greece to do interviews for the movie ‘Mamma Mia!’.

    I wasn’t worried about meeting the musical’s stars Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan – I’ve meet them on many occasions over the years and they’re always an absolute delight to be around. No, I was nervous to meet my long-time idols, ABBA’s Benny and Björn.

    Sitting with them on the deck of a stunning beachside resort just outside Athens, I broke the first rule of journalism: never admit you’re a fan. “When I was growing up in Melbourne, yours was the first concert I ever went to,” I confessed. To my delight, the pair were genuinely thrilled and warmed to me immediately, with Benny reminiscing about that trip and how they watched the Moomba Parade from the Melbourne mayor’s balcony.

    The film adaptation of the hit stage musical is a wonderful tribute to the music and spirit of ABBA, but make sure you stay until the end of their special cameo as Greek gods. “Very appropriate,” Björn tells me, tongue firmly in cheek. It’s nice to discover that after meeting them, I’m still worshiping at their altar.

    The Times – Saturday, 5 July 2008 (Page 14)


    Mamma’s place: A Greek island is the real star of the new film, says Mark Bridge.

    When they came to shoot the film adaptation of the ABBA musical, a feel-good Greek island set was essential. The forested island of Skopelos in the Northern Aegean Sporades group became the principal set for the film staring Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep. The cast can be seen dashing across white beaches to plunge into a sparkling sea or singing the big numbers en masse at epic locations, such as the rocktop monastery of Agios Ioannis.

    Skopelos is a half-hour hop by hydrofoil from Skiathos, which is a three-hour charter flight from London. My family has owned a house on the island since 1971, when the closest airport was Athens and ferries stopped once a week. I visit most Summers with friends and family. Some come for the walks or medieval monasteries, but we tend to holiday like Greeks: lazy days at the beach and evenings in town.

    The house is in the capital, Skopelos town, which climbs back from the port in a picture-book tumble of whitewashed houses and churches, blue doors and bougainvillea. On the waterfront are newer cafés, restaurants and boutiques, favourites with the Athenians who return each year.

    Alongside the recent tourist-geared business are old-time local institutions: the banks and town hall, and Demotiki Kafeneon, the no-frills state-subsidised café where old men talk politics and drink coffee.

    When I spend time on the island with friends, we usually breakfast on yoghurt and fruit at one of the less austere cafés before taking, a late-morning bus to the beach. The buses are cheap and efficient and make car hire unnecessary. They run from the port to Glossa, the island’s hill-top second town and cover miles of coastal views – sea, sky, pine and white-grey bed-rock – plus all the main beaches.

    Te first en route, Stafylos, is a ten-minute drive from town. It is also the site of the tomb of a Minoan prince, Stafylos, no trace of which can be seen, however. Despite its 3,000-year history and a wealth of intact architecture, the island has no significant ancient ruins – arguably no bad thing: visitors see the real historic Greece, not a vast museum.

    We usually skip the beach, however, in favour of quieter Agnondas – ten minutes farther on, and the base for the ‘Mamma Mia!’ crew.

    Here a small shingle beach nestles in a natural harbour. Yacht crews stop here for the two excellent tavernas and bar that cluster close to a fishing jetty. We often lunch at one of these. The seafood is meant to be best, but, as a vegetarian, I opt for the cheap bean and tomato salads, and crusty bread. Well fed, we sunbathe and read – then swim in the sheltered sea.

    One of the ‘Mamma Mia!’ crew’s hang-outs, Limnonari, is a scenic 15-minute walk from Agnondas with no bus access. The white-sand beach, flanked by forested hills, is an excellent place to laze in a relative seclusion – but with tavernas near by.

    Most of the film’s locations are smaller beaches well off the beaten track. My favourite, Perivoli, on the sparsely inhabited north coast, has an almost Cornish feel, with jagged rocks and windswept flora. The beach can be reached by taxi or hire car and combined with a few hours in nearby Glossa. There, lunch on the terrace of Agnanti is a must.

    Another excellent restaurant is Ouzeria Anatoli, simple and outdoors, within the low-walled ruins of the Venetian citadel at the highest point of Skopelos town. Rustic food, local wine, wide views and sea air combine to awesome and enormous effect with the rembetika of the musician-owner Kostas Kalafatis, who dueted with Benny Andersson at ‘Mamma Mia!’s’ crew bash.

    Photo: Cast and crew of ‘Mamma Mia!’ on Skopelos. Most of the film’s beach locations are within easy reach for visitors.

  3. Samuel Inglles Says:

    Hi IAN

    Here’s more articles on Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, “Mamma Mia!-The Movie’ and ABBA.

    Kind Regards
    Samuel Inglles

    Who – 28 July 2008 (Page 59)

    Mamma’s girl: Amanda Seyfried hits a high note with her star making turn in ‘Mamma Mia!’

    Twenty-two-year-old Amanda Seyfried reportedly beat the likes of Anne Hathaway and Mandy Moore for the plum big-screen role in ‘Mamma Mia!’, in which she plays the daughter of Meryl Streep, who is “so good, she’s like a creature from another planet,” gushed Seyfried.

    But you know her from …
    ‘Big Love’ (her magnetic turn as a conflicted child of polygamy on the TV drama gives us the shivers), ‘Mean Girls’ (she was one of the “plastics”) and ‘Veronica Mars’.

    The road to ‘Mamma Mia!’
    “Singing was my first love. I trained classically from 11 to 17. When I found out Meryl Streep was cast as the mom, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is my role!’”

    Double threat?
    “[ABBA’s] Benny Andersson said he’d write music for me. But I don’t care to be a singer. I don’t want anything to get in the way of my acting career.”

    Why she’s here to stay
    The former model is no wild child. “A lot of people think the attention and money makes them who they are, but that’s not true.”

    Coming up
    The Zombie flick ‘Jennifer’s Body’ with Megan Fox, in 2009. “We make out in one scene. That’ll probably be the trailer in slo-mo.”

    The Canberra Times – Monday, 7 July 2008 (Pages 4 & 5)


    Oh Mamma Meryl Streep uncovered. Meryl Streep like you’ve never seen her before. Things you’d never guess about Meryl. Meryl Streep’s role in the film version of the musical ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a surprising one that stretches and satisfies expectations, Stuart Jeffries writes.

    The interview with Meryl Streep doesn’t start well. “Do you know who Alan Partridge is?” I ask. “Isn’t he that MP who said he has bulimia?” she replies. Unfortunately not. I explain that he was a British TV character whose onscreen chat show was called ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. Streep giggles at the reference to an ABBA song. So, I say, I’m just going to introduce you the way that Partridge would introduce his guests. Streep’s right eyebrow rises. She’s either intrigued or about to call security. Here goes.

    “Knowing me, Stuart Jeffries; knowing you, Meryl Streep, a-hah!” I lean forward and make an ushering gesture.

    Streep cracks up. Her extraordinary cheekbones become even more accentuated and she laughs in a delightful girlish way. “No,” I say, “you’re supposed to reply…” “A-hah!” Streep interrupts gamely. That’s it. Hey, thanks,” she says, “if I’m on his show, I’ll remember that.” The show doesn’t exist any more. “Oh,” Streep says.

    We’re in this swanky suite in a hotel in London’s very upmarket Knightsbridge to discuss her role in ‘Mamma Mia!’ (their exclamation mark, not mine), a film version of the musical in which Streep plays an older woman called Donna who runs a guest-house on a Greek island which has been infected by a terrible plague: nobody can stop singing ABBA songs, until some god, in the form of the end credits, intervenes.

    When Donna’s former lovers (played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) are lured to the island like latter-day Odysseuses, they too fall prey to the disease. The men stay for the wedding of Donna’s daughter, who one of them fathered 20 years before. Donna isn’t sure which and the audience’s task is to care about this question of paternity.

    Donna’s sex life in the intervening years has been less interesting. “She really isn’t getting any,” Streep says, “and she’s deluded herself she’s OK with that.”

    Does her character succumb to James Bond, Mr Darcy or a horny Swede in the last reel? Oh, have a guess. What we can say is that in the film, Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters form a kind of Golden Girls trio (Streep is Bea Arthur to Walters’ randy Rue McLanahan), each seeking to get their mojo back.

    The number of people not aware of how this story ends diminishes daily: across the globe, more than 17,000 people see the show each night. Before Phyllida Lloyd directed this swift, spirited movie version, 30 million people had seen the stage show and it had grossed more than $2 billion at the box office.

    Streep is the film’s heart, and its revelation. She sings. She dances. She does the splits. She confers on her role a dignity that miraculously stops the movie collapsing into mere camp. “I keep getting asked about the scene with the splits, “Streep says. She does look amazingly limber when, mid-song, wearing dungarees, she jumps on a bed and flicks out her legs to meet her outstretched hands like a teenage cossack. “They ask – was there a body double?” she says. “Yeah, right. Or was it CGI? Of course! They grafted my face on to Olga Korbut’s body.” She’s joking. Note to younger readers: Olga Korbut was an adorable, Olympic gold-winning Soviet gymnast of the early 1970s, who will always be remembered in her teenage state; Meryl Streep is an actor who turned 59 barely a week ago.

    What really happened? “I just did the splits on instinct. That’s what always happens with my acting. As an actor, you’re not allowed to think. I couldn’t do the spits for you right now.” Couldn’t you just try? “No,” Streep says firmly. She also refuses to reprise that moment in the film that made me laugh out loud, namely when she poutingly sings the first lines of ‘Super Trouper’ (“I was so sick of tired of everything/When I called you last night from Glasgow.”) Marvellous. But some critics don’t think so. In media screenings there are murmurs that to be singing karaoke ABBA songs in a relentlessly cheerful Hollywood musical is a terrible career misstep. After all, Streep is renowned for much more substantial roles. She won an Oscar for her performance in the heart-rending divorce drama ‘Kramer Vs Karamer’ (1979) and another for her performance as a concentration camp survivor in ‘Sophie’s Choice’ (1982). She was a melancholy outcast in a doomed affair with Jeremy Irons (‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, 1981); a metallurgist at a plutonium plant possibly murdered for whistle-blowing about worker safety (‘Silkwood’, 1983); a Danish baroness-cum-farmer having another doomed affair (‘Out Of Africa’, 1985); an Australian mother who claimed a dingo took her baby (‘A Cry In The Dark’, 1988); and a Virginia Woolf-loving publisher nicknamed Mrs Dalloway whose friend is dying of AIDS (‘The Hours’, 2002).

    If there is a gap in her remarkably varied oeuvre, it’s high jinks. You might be forgiven for thinking that Streep doesn’t do jaunty. Until now.

    Isn’t this role beneath you, I ask. “I’m not strategising my career moves at all,” Streep says. “I haven’t got a career that I’m building. When I swim my 55 laps, I try to remember the movies I’ve been in order, and I can’t … the past is just a miasma. There’s no career path.

    “I just want to do things that are valuable to introduce into the culture. This film [‘Mamma Mia!’] is a valuable thing. I knew it when I saw it.”

    Streep first saw ‘Mamma Mia!’ on Broadway seven years ago. She was in a bit of a pickle. She had to dream up an excursion for some friends of Louisa, the youngest of her four children by husband Don Gummer, the sculptor to whom she has been married for the past 30 years. Only one problem: it was October 2001 in Manhattan.

    “Everybody was really dimmed spiritually after 9/11. I thought, ‘What am I going to do with the kids?’ So I took all these 10-year-olds to see a matinee of ‘Mamma Mia!’. They walked in and they sat there with their heads in their hands. Dimmed is the word – they were sad all the time, you know?

    “The first part was really wordy, and then ‘Dancing Queen’ started up. And for the rest of the show they were dancing on their chairs and they were so, so happy. We all went out of the theatre floating on the air. I thought, ‘What a gift to New York right now.’”

    She sent a thank-you letter to the cast.

    Producer Judy Craymer and director Phyllida Lloyd saw it, and mentally filed it away. They knew that ‘Mamma Mia!’ would one day be a film. They also knew that Streep had sung with great charm in both ‘Postcards from the Edge’ and ‘A Prairie Home Companion’. Putting two and two together, they realised that Streep would someday be a bella – and perhaps even a prima – Donna. And so she is.

    Streep tells the story rather differently. “Judy had seen me as Mother Courage in Tony Kushner’s production [of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’] in Central Park the year before last. That’s what made her know I was destined to be Donna.” How weird – from Brecht to ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

    But why did she accept the role? “It’s a requirement of popular culture that you strike an ironic distance. This doesn’t. It’s a film about women and their whole experiences being hopeful and youthful and older and suffering the regrets that you have over a long life. It’s visceral and I love that.”

    I have a different idea as to why Streep was seduced into playing Donna. It was to prove Pauline Kael wrong. Years ago Kael, the late, massively influential ‘New Yorker’ film critic, wrote that Streep only acted “from the neck up”. Kael’s bile hurt Streep. “It killed me,” she once said. But at least, I suggest, by taking this role in ‘Mamma Mia!’ you are, in a very literal, high-kicking way, proving Kael wrong. Few 59-year-old screen actors seem as lively from the neck down as she does as Donna.

    “I’m incapable of not thinking about what Pauline wrote,” Streep replies seriously. “And you know what I think? That Pauline was a poor Jewish girl who was at Berkeley with all these rich Pasadena Wasps with long blonde hair, and the heartlessness of them got her. And then, years later, she sees me.”

    For the record, Meryl Streep is no Pasadena Wasp: she was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1949, to a commercial artist called Mary and pharmaceutical executive called Harry. Her ancestry is a mixture of English, Swiss, Irish and Dutch. On her father’s side she can trace distant Sephardic Jewish ancestors from Spain. But she still has long blonde hair.

    “Look, we make these associations,” Streep says, “Pauline had a visceral dislike of me and there’s no movie I could have done to stop that. She made up a person that I’m not.” But Kael also underestimated Streep’s talent. Replying to Kael’s criticism, a more generous critic, Molly Haskell, recently wrote of Streep: “To the extent she does deflect attention from the body to the head, it’s not just in the interest of accents, hair gimmicks: it’s because the lady thinks. Her characters can have more than one idea in their heads at a time.” Haskell argues that Streep remains singular among great film actresses.

    Streep baulks at the suggestion that she is so protean an actor that there are no constant traces of herself in her characters. “I see myself in everybody I play. I think I’m like them, I really do.” She pauses for a second, looking down at her lap. “What I try to do is deepen the humanity of each woman that I play.” Why would you want to do that? “It comes from some kind of aggrieved part of my childhood where I felt disregarded – not by my parents – so that I needed to question things and show a woman who is saying, “I’m not what I look like. I’m a different thing.’ I’ve played so many different women of different ages, and everybody always mentions all those different accents I do, but I’m always playing different aspects of me. I’m not looking it up in a book.”

    And yet the notion persists that Streep is a chilly actress, a robotic performer. To be sure, that’s not true of her performance in ‘Mamma Mia!’.

    And yet Donna is also hardly the kind of tough, complex, challenging woman whom actors of Streep’s generation revelled in playing in the 1970s and 1980s. Hollywood has stopped putting intelligent, difficult women on screen. As Haskell points out, there was a time when Sigourney Weaver, Jane Foda, Sally Field, Sissy Spacek and Meryl Streep played “whistle blowers, union organisers, anthropologists, hookers, and writers with raised consciousness, in movies of substance that would never get past a story conference today.”

    What happened to all those strong celluloid women? “It’s a very big question,” Streep says. “Women’s real change in our society has been disruptive, but feels evolutionary necessary. So now 60 per cent of the kids in college are women. More than 50 per cent of medical students are women. They’re not at the top in government and business, but there is real change and I think that has terrified everybody. It’s terrified men and it’s terrified women.” As a result, she thinks “women have performed a compensatory step back”.

    Streep starts imagining out loud what the women who have made that step back tell themselves. “I won’t be sexy if I’m this – even though I want to be paid an equal amount, I still want to appear sexy, I still want to appear fragile, so I’ll lose weight.’ That’s my theory about what women are doing anyway.” How does this theory play out in Hollywood? “Before the war there were strong women in cinema played by women like Barbara Stanwyck, Hepburn and Crawford, who were allowed to be strong and dominate movies because they were in no way a threat. In the real world, the characters they played were a fantasy. Basically, women were at home. When the Second World War – in which women had been working and liked working – was over, in the 1950s, suddenly there was Marilyn Monroe, Jill St John and Brigitte Bardot because women could not be seen as strong anymore. And that was because, in the real world, it was no longer just a fantasy that there were strong women.”

    But why did the era of the 1970s and 1980s, when there were once more strong roles for women in Hollywood, come to an end? “Because women want to be with men.” She starts to laugh and shrugs as if to say – it happens. “You’re so slow.”

    A PR minder comes in and says there’s time for one more question. It proves to be the worst of the interview. Is there any reason to hope that our evolution will be more comfortable gender-wise than it has been hitherto? That girlish laugh sounds again.

    “Well, we can all stay friends and have sex, it seems to me.” Let’s hope.

    Minutes later I’m walking down the street laughing. As I walk past Harrods department store I play back the tape and hear her say “a-hah!” It slays me.

    Photos: (1) Meryl Streep on the red carpet in Berlin in 2006, (2) with daughter Grace arriving at the Academy Awards in 2007, (3) doing the splits in ‘Mamma Mia!’, (4) getting serious with Tom Cruise in last year’s ‘Lion For Lambs’, (5) and with Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Evening’. (6) Streep with her best actress award for ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ at the 2007 Golden Globes.


    The Times (London) – Thursday, 3 July 2008 (Pages 4, 5 & 6)


    ‘Mamma Mia!’ A very modern musical: Björn to run (and run, and run…) – As the movie version of the stage smash hit ‘Mamma Mia!’ opens, Clive Davies explains the enduring appeal of ABBA’s music, and argues that the show has helped to redefine the modern musical.

    There is only one musical on everyone’s lips, and for a change it’s not a Graham Norton and Andrew Lloyd Webber spin-off. Three decades or more after ABBA invaded the world’s discos, the film version of ‘Mamma Mia!’ is introducing another swath of listeners to the pleasures of ‘Super Trouper’ and that ultimate producer’s anthem, ‘Money, Money, Money’.

    All the favourites are being brought to the screen next week in a starry package headed by Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth. With its beguiling Greek island setting, the movie is already winning praise as the ultimate escapist treat of the year. Just as the Swedish pop band first cast its spell during the dreary age of stagflation and oil shocks, so the music looks set to carry an adoring public through another era of economic turmoil. Although the sky may be falling once again, everyone can still hum to ‘Dancing Queen’.

    That the Broadway version of the show managed to conquer New York in the weeks immediately after 9/11 is some sort of testament to its appeal. Everyone knows how difficult it can be to conquer Time Square, which, on a bad night, can be about as friendly a spot as Omaha Beach. Imagine, then, how much trickier it must have been to launch a frothy, feel-good musical in the city that never sleeps in those sleepless days of Autumn 2001.

    Yet the formula did the business. Americans may have been traumatised, but they were still willing to be seduced by those maddeningly catchy Seventies anthems. “A giant singing Hostess cupcake opened at the Winter Garden Theatre last night,” wrote a mildly bemused Ben Brantley in his ‘New York Times’ review. Cupcakes, he added, were what his fellow citizens urgently required at that particular moment, and ‘Mamma Mia!” supplied them by the hundredweight.

    Brantley himself couldn’t help succumbing in the end: ‘Mamma Mia!” manipulates you, for sure,” he wrote, “but it creates the feeling that you’re somehow a part of the manipulative process. And while it may be widely described as a hoot by theatergoers embarrassed at having enjoyed it, it gives off a moist-eyed sincerity that is beyond camp.” Since then, of course, the juggernaut has simply grown and grown, and has evolved into a multimillion-pound franchise (to use that ugly, moneyed phrase), seducing countless spectators who had only the dimmest idea of who Björn and Benny are, or how a generation of overheated schoolboys (myself included) speculated about the respective carnal charms of Agnetha, the glamorous blonde, and the earthier brunette, Frida. The personification of post-Eurovision naffness, the Swedish supergroup enjoyed a new afterlife as the acceptable face of theatrical kitsch.

    In the process, ‘Mamma Mia!’ helped to redefine, for better or worse, the modern musical. Just as Andrew Lloyd Webber had dragged the ailing form back in the direction of pseudo-operatic mega-spectacle, so Judy Craymer’s all-conquering hit production reminded impresarios that shows could be marketed as sleek agglomerations of tried-and-tested pop songs.

    Critics who longed for the more sophisticated tunes and lyrics of Broadway’s golden era may find this a depressing phenomenon (will anyone be queuing up to revive ‘We Will Rock You’ when the last members of the Queen fan club have fallen off their Zimmer frames?) But as jukebox shows go, ‘Mamma Mia!’s’ portrayal of a wide eyed young girl’s quest on a Greek island is without doubt cleverly crafted.

    It at least boasts of storyline, for instance, which is more than can be said of many of its rivals, which tend to be content to dig up old 45s, assemble an energetic set of hoofers and crank up the volume controls in the pit. True, no one is going to mistake Catherine Johnson’s plot for ‘The Tempest’ (although a few skeptics have noted the parallels with the Sixties film ‘Buena Sera, Mrs Campbell’ another tale of tangled passions in a lush Mediterranean setting.)

    But seeing the writer and the cast find a way of reworking so many tunes into such incongruous settings is like watching a champion exponent of Rubik’s Cube put all the colours in the right order inside 30 seconds: not a great aesthetic experience, perhaps, but you have to admire the sleight of hand.

    It’s easy to appreciate why jukeboxes are in fashion at the moment. The cost of mounting a show in the West End or Broadway grows more prohibitive by the year, and as the musical comedy tradition and the pop market drift farther and farther apart (how many Top 40 hits have come out of musicals lately?) vehicles such as ‘Mamma Mia!’ are, relatively speaking, a safe investment. Think of how many records Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have sold on both sides of the Atlantic, and you can only wonder why it took anyone so long to dream up ‘Jersey Boys’.

    There’s an interesting parallel between The Seasons and ABBA. Both were an example of a band where the quality of the writing took precedence over personality. How many readers ever knew Björn and Benny’s surnames? What mattered most was the smoothness of the conveyor-belt production line. And both bands catered to an audience that was frankly uncool, but couldn’t care less as long as the new single had a solid hook.

    One other reason why ABBA may have survived so many changes of fashion is that their music has some of the sunnier qualities of classic, pre-‘Sgt Pepper’ Beatles tunes. It is like listening to McCartney working close to the top of his form, but without Lennon by his side.

    No, it isn’t really as good as the Fab Four, but it has aged better than Wings.

    Are the songs in ‘Mamma Mia!’ great pop music? Personally, I don’t think so, and I say that as someone who cheered on ‘Waterloo’ in front of the TV on the night the Swedes first conquered Eurovision. Moreover, in 20 years of reviewing some of the world’s finest pop singers, from Tony Bennet to Norah Jones, I don’t recall ever hearing a single Benny and Björn cover.

    But, in a way, that’s beside the point. ABBA’s songs are consummately assembled and know exactly which area of the psyche they are aimed at. Against the odds, ‘Mamma Mia!’ achieves the same weird alchemy.

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