“We hopefully made a movie that will appeal to both people who loved the first movie and a film that brings a new story for new audiences. It has a gorgeous cast, a stunning collection of songs, and everything that I could throw into it—music, laughs, joy, happiness and sunshine.”
Get ready to sing and dance, laugh and love all over again. Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie grossed more than $600 million, you’re invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA.
Ol Parker, writer of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, writes the screenplay and directs Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again from a story by Richard Curtis, Parker and Catherine Johnson, who wrote the original musical Mamma Mia!—upon which this film is based. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus return to provide music and lyrics and serve as executive producers. Visit the website
It is difficult to believe, but it has actually been 10 years since the ground-breaking success of Mamma Mia! The Movie.
Judy Craymer, producer and creator of the global smash-hit musical Mamma Mia! and producer of the first movie, sets up the premise of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: “Both the musical and the first film is a story of family and friendship, and believing in yourself. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, we continue the emotional journey of our story while also discovering how those life-changing relationships formed and had such a profound impact on Donna, The Dynamos, Sophie and her possible dads.
“The story of Mamma Mia! feels more relevant than ever, and audiences really have a deep affection for the story, the show, ABBA’s music and the first film,” she continues. “The songs and story take you on an emotional journey with music that is magical and irresistible.”
It was important to Craymer and her fellow film producer, Gary Goetzman, that they not rush a story. Craymer recounts: “The evolution of ‘Mamma Mia’ has always been an organic one, and we’d always loved the idea of a second movie. Without any kind of cynicism, we’ve gone back to the origins of the musical, as there was a foundation there that worked so well. We’d always discussed the backstory of how Donna and The Dynamos formed in college and how Donna found her destiny on the island. This was the jumping-off point for how we came upon the storyline of a prequel and a sequel in one.”
As a long-time admirer of Richard Curtis’ work, Craymer approached him about expanding the back-story of Mamma Mia!. “Richard came up with the storyline and suggested I meet with Ol Parker as a possible screenwriter,” says the producer. “It was in my conversations with Ol that I knew he understood the journey we wanted to take with this story that was full of joy and big emotions—as the characters are dealing with real-life issues of marriage, death and birth.”
While the development process to ensure any sequel would dovetail well with the original was extensive, Goetzman agrees with his fellow collaborator that there was always another tale that needed to be told. “When you see Mamma Mia!, there are stories that you think, ‘Wow that could be elaborated on a bit.’ We thought it would be a good idea to show our beloved characters in a younger time, when the story of the first film actually began. With that, we also have a narrative that is all about them, the original characters and what’s happened in their lives. Both came together in a nice way.”
Parker was mindful of the original architects of the first movie. “It was obviously the biggest thing in the world, and that’s both terrifying and thrilling,” he notes. “Thrilling because it means we get to have fun, and terrifying because there’s a level to match up to.”
Ol Parker (Directed by/Screenplay by/Story by) is a London-based writer and director. Parker wrote the BAFTA- and Golden Globe Award-nominated film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which grossed over $136 million globally, as well as the follow-up The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which grossed over $85 million globally. Both films starred Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel. He wrote and directed Now Is Good, which starred Dakota Fanning and Jeremy Irvine, and his adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel “Sorta Like a Rockstar” is being acquired by Netflix for Bryce Dallas Howard to direct. Parker began his career writing in television for the BBC’s Grange Hill.
Reflecting on her delight upon reading Parker’s script, Craymer offers: “When Ol delivered the first draft of his screenplay, it was a special time. I instantly knew it was right. There are heart-breaking moments, but it also very much embraced the empowerment of women.
Then there was the difficult task of finding the right director. Craymer says: “I’d spoken to several but had an instinctive feeling that Ol, even though he hadn’t directed a musical, should be the director, too. I was thrilled when he agreed.”
As well, Parker was delighted to be directing on a project with Craymer, commenting: “She’s the finest producer and the most supportive person that could help me make this film.”
Based on Johnson’s book for the musical and her screenplay for Mamma Mia! The Movie, Curtis worked closely with Parker on the story for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. For Curtis—who also serves as executive producer on this film—his love affair with this world began many years prior. “I first saw Mamma Mia! The Movie on a rainy day; the theater was completely full, and we emerged feeling we’d had a summer holiday in just two hours. That is what this is. It is a mainstream injection of joy and optimism—with an undertone of feminist enthusiasm, passion and strength.”
Curtis talks about a fitting inspiration for a story about family: “This came from a conversation with my rather brilliant 22-year-old daughter. I asked if she had any ideas for Mamma Mia! 2, and she said it was obvious: It should be flashback to explore how Donna met the three possible fathers during the summer of ’79, cut into the present day with Sophie. Then there is a whole cycle of motherhood linking the two.”
Richard Curtis (Story by/Executive Producer) is a writer and director. He wrote the film Four Weddings and a Funeral and went on to receive an Academy Award® nomination for the screenplay. Other film work includes Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Mr. Bean, Love Actually, The Boat That Rocked, About Time and most recently Trash and Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot. His television credits include Blackadder, Mr. Bean and The Vicar of Dibley. In 2007, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.
Curtis absolutely understands why audiences are drawn to Mamma Mia!. “I’m a massive pop fan and therefore a massive ABBA fan. I love the cheerful unselfconsciousness of Mamma Mia! It is a musical where you will laugh when you bounce into the songs and realize you have been taken to a new place.”
Long-time collaborators, Curtis and Parker began the process of mapping out the story for the sequel/prequel. “I went to stay with him, which was a joyous thing anyway and every morning we’d sit in his caravan and pin up all the ABBA songs that we liked on the wall,” explains Parker. “Then, we tried to figure out a way to zigzag from one to the other. We would also try to make each other laugh, which was the main challenge.”
It’s difficult to say who the bigger ABBA fan between the two is. “Richard Curtis has an encyclopaedic knowledge of ABBA, which defeats even mine,” Parker laughs. That would inform the narrative of the film. “We both know their music so well, sometimes we’d consider using a song as a way to get into a scene, others we’d find a way to put a song into a scene.”
For Parker, whose background as a screenwriter allowed him the foresight to imagine what would and wouldn’t work, the concept of a prequel/sequel felt ideal. “From the back story of the three possible fathers, how Young Donna becomes Donna and finds her way to the island—even how the dungarees originate—all of those things just seemed like a gift. They’re all these moments where you can create symmetry, and it can lend an emotional resonance to uh Sophie’s story.”
Goetzman was impressed by the number of “hidden treasures” that the screenplay placed all over the film. “In writing Mamma Mia Here We Go Again!, Ol and Richard brought in these little connections, nods and winks to the first film. There are things that are said within many of the songs that they draw on and make a nice placement of in a scene. The first movie was always with us during production.”
The producer particularly enjoyed the fastidious attention to detail when it came to song placement and narrative. As in so much of Mamma Mia!, the songs in this film come at just the right time and evoke the perfect feeling for the scene. Offers Goetzman: “‘Dancing Queen’ is the ultimate magical earworm. Once you hear it, you can’t get it out of your mind. It won’t go away, but you never get sick of it. That’s the most amazing thing with these movies, is that when I hear Benny and Björn’s music, I can’t help but be addicted to it and constantly be humming it. I can’t help but feel happy when I hear the songs…as well as how I’m not mad about it. ABBA’s music is timeless. It appeals to generation after generation, in any setting—I don’t care if it’s a dance floor, your car or in the bath tub. ABBA rules.”
Godfathers of Mamma Mia! Andersson and Ulvaeus Collaborate
Sharing her excitement for the next installment of the Mamma Mia! story, Craymer reflects on the great enthusiasm that comes from all-things ABBA: “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has been a joyous experience for everyone—featuring a one-of-kind ensemble, great storytelling and music from ABBA that will take audiences on an emotional and joyous journey.” For the producer, this experience springs from the brilliance of her collaborators: “Benny and Björn are geniuses, and ABBA’s music is a gift to the world.”
Goetzman has known ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus for years, and also like many, has been a fan of their music for much longer. When considering a follow-up film, the producer never worried that there wouldn’t be enough material. “ABBA’s music is so full and rich that even their songs that you don’t know well are incredible. So many of their songs that were huge hits internationally, and there are many songs we didn’t use in the first picture. It’s a really good combination of songs you know, songs you kind of know, and some you don’t. You’re going to enjoy all of them. It’s a beautiful musical landscape that Benny and Björn have laid out for us, and we take full advantage of it.”
Andersson and Ulvaeus serve as executive producers, as well as providing music and lyrics. Ulvaeus also has a cameo as a university professor for the opening number when Young Donna and The Dynamos perform at graduation ceremonies at Oxford. Ulvaeus recalls that the particular song has always had a special place in his heart, and he discusses releasing it in the mid-’70s: “‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ was written as early as 1975, at a time when we thought any song could only last two years, so it is funny to return to it now. It is a youthful-sounding, energetic song, and it is absolutely perfect to kick the off the film.”
Sharing how it feels to witness songs given a whole new lease on life by the Young Dynamos, Ulvaeus reflects: “To see these young people singing these numbers in a movie is so humbling, and I’ve loved every moment. The uncanny thing about “When I Kissed the Teacher” is that it fits this scene in the movie perfectly.”
The Mamma Mia! show and movies have given ABBA music a relevance no one ever could’ve imagined. “After the first movie, I never thought there would be another one because it would be so difficult to find the right songs to weave into the story, and I wasn’t sure there would be the right material,” Ulvaeus adds. “When Judy called with the idea she’d been working with Ol Parker and Richard Curtis, I thought immediately that it sounded interesting and we should give it a go. I have always been an admirer of their films, and the way that Richard treats music in Love Actually and Four Weddings is wonderful. They understand music and what it can do within a film.”
Andersson and Ulvaeus first met producer Craymer in the ’80s, and later she approached them about producing a stage show featuring their music. “We weren’t convinced, but then she came up with a script by Catherine Johnson,” explains Andersson. We liked the way the narrative had been carried through by our songs to move the story forward. We were and still are very protective of our music. We set up a company with her so that if we wanted to pull the plug we could; we are lucky we didn’t!”
When the idea of a follow-up film came about, Andersson was again hesitant but remained opened to exploration. “The first movie was a tremendous success and such a good film that we weren’t sure another one could work,” he states. “It is wonderful that all the cast are back, and that felt good. What is nice is that I got to go back into the studio again and work with the old boys in the band, record all these songs that are not in the first film and—unless you are a hard-core ABBA fan—you may not know them yet.”
Discussing the songs chosen for the movie, Andersson says: “They are all good in different ways. “When I Kissed the Teacher” is great fun and uplifting. “My Love, My Life” is a song from 1973, which is quite beautiful and comes at the end of the movie.”
On working with the A-list cast list of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, he laughs that it took actors and singers alike a bit of adjustment: “We are used to it now. It was a little weird 10 years ago having Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth come into the studio. They were as tense as we were. It takes a minute to realize we’re not dangerous; we all just want to do this as well as we can. Once everyone understands, it’s a piece of cake. They trust me, I trust them and we just start working.”
Principal photography wrapped, writer/director Parker reflects on the production of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and what he dreams moviegoers will take away from this labor of love: “We hopefully made a movie that will appeal to both people who loved the first movie and a film that brings a new story for new audiences. It has a gorgeous cast, a stunning collection of songs, and everything that I could throw into it—music, laughs, joy, happiness and sunshine.”