Producers of blockbuster hit ‘Bad Genius’ present rom-com ‘Brother of the Year’

Following the international success of high school heist thriller ‘Bad Genius,’ Thai production outfit GDH 559 presents BROTHER OF THE YEAR – a film that threads on themes of sibling rivalry relationship and romantic comedy.

BROTHER OF THE YEAR is directed by Vithaya Thongyuyong and stars Thai heartthrobs Sunny Suwanmethanont, Nichkhun Horvejkul of Korean boy band 2PM and TV actress Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund. Supported by Tourism Authority of Thailand, the movie opens September 5, 2018 in the Philippine cinemas.

Siblings have an unbreakable bond that only they can feel and their parents can understand. We know that deep down our brothers and sisters love us. But sometimes, they express their love in the meanest ways. BROTHER OF THE YEAR takes on a realistic portrayal of the highly relatable meddling problem of an older brother who acts as a nemesis to his sister.

Director Thongyuyong who has worked on ‘My Girl’, ‘The Possible’, and ‘The Little Comedian’ expresses his excitement of directing the film, agreeing that a lot of people will be able to relate to some if not all aspects of the story and learn something from the film. He shares, “When I made ‘Brother of the Year’, it felt like when I made My Girl, where I casted my mind back to my first love and childhood friends. This film made me reminisce about my family, especially, when I interfered in my younger ones’ love life. I believe that many other siblings experience something like this too.”

Sibling relationships are different for everybody. While some may be open and generally harmonious, there are also some who act mischievous with one another. Thai actor Sunny Suwanmethanont who plays the role of ‘Chut’ shares, “Stories about siblings are easily relatable to me and many others. I believe that most of us would hardly express our love to our siblings. Imagine, it’s quite embarrassing to walk to your siblings and say ‘I love you, brother!’, ’I love you, sister!.’ Even though we do not express it out loud, deep down inside, we know that we love one another.”

Despite the difference in line of work, Sunny as a film actor, Urassaya as a TV actress, and Nichkhun as a singer, all mention how attending a workshop together and telling each other stories about their real-life sibling situation created a familiar chemistry between them that helped portray the intentions of the film.

Playing the role of ‘Moji’, Korean pop star Nichkhun shares “Brother of the Year will not only entertain the audience, I also believe that it will make them feel the same as me, that is, making the audience think and care more about our siblings. No matter how mad we are at them, we can’t stop being siblings. Ultimately, we still love and care one another.”

Find out what’s going to happen to the savage brother who constantly meddles in his young sister’s perfect love life! “Brother of The Year” opens in cinemas nationwide on September 5, 2018. Special thanks to Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas.

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ earns P120.7-M in 5 days in PH cinemas

There’s no stopping Tom Cruise from doing the impossible, as his latest epic action-adventure “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” just erased even his own box-office records in the Philippines!

The sixth installment of the 22-year-old spy franchise, “Fallout” opened with a staggering P120.7-million in five days (July 25 to 29), eclipsing two records in one swoop: All-Time Biggest Opening Weekend for a Tom Cruise title and Biggest Opening Weekend for the “Mission: Impossible” series.

Former record-holder for both milestones is “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” which bowed in 2015 with P105-million.

Local audiences are primed for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” which provided a thrill ride that relies on real stunts done by Cruise himself and not special effects during every scene.

Word-of-mouth looks to be promising as well as “Fallout” received some of the best reviews for the franchise, both from local and international critics. Its 97% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is the highest for both the series, and of any Cruise movie.

Now playing in Philippine cinemas, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

The best intentions often come back to haunt you. Mission: Impossible – Fallout finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Vhing Rhames) along with some familiar allies (Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan) in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby also join the dynamic cast with filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie returning to the helm.

Tony Labrusca marks movie acting debut via Cinemalaya entry ‘ML’

New actor Tony Labrusca finds it an honor to share co-lead role with the legendary and iconic actor Eddie Garcia via his debut film, “ML” (short for “Martial Law”), an official entry to Cinemalaya 2018.

In “ML”, written and directed by Benedict Mique, Tony plays a sheltered teen-age boy who experiences “Martial Law” first hand – from a retired military soldier with slight dementia who believes it’s still the Martial Law era.

What can Tony say about working with the great Eddie Garcia?

“He’s the man, he’s a legend. The fact that I was able to work with him, I’m such a new actor. It was such a humbling experience for me, and I have to admit, I was very intimidated.

“I stepped in there (on the set), not knowing what will gonna happen, how our relationship be like, but it was really humbling and I learned a lot.

“This is an experience that I will always be able to tell people one day when I grow up, that ‘I did a movie with Eddie Garcia!’” says the proud newcomer.

How did he prepare for his role?

“I’m a new actor, so I prepared by going through the script with Direk Benedict Mique and really evaluating every scene. He was always there for me, guiding me. That’s how we prepared.

“We had a really symbiotic relationship, kasi, I couldn’t do any other scenes without him, and obviously, I’m his main actor, and so we definitely helped each other out. I’m really blessed that he chose and trusted a new actor like me. So, we just prepared by working through it together.

“Direk Benedict just made us watch videos, ‘coz there are certain scenes that we needed to feel, like the horrible things that happened to people.”

What was his realization after doing the film?

“I think my realization now is that, you just have to make an open mind. Ako kasi, I’m not really a political person.

“But I think, after watching this movie, it’s just good to be very aware about your surroundings. I think, that’s the biggest thing. More than people taking sides, or to be aggressive or inactive, I think it’s just about knowing your surroundings, being more aware and just educating yourself.”

How was the over-all experience doing his very first independent film in a co-lead role with Eddie Garcia?

“I love it! I love it so much. It’s a completely different vibe.

“I wanna encourage everybody out there, that if you’re an aspiring actor, and you think that mainstream is the only way to make it, I think it’s important that you give indie a shot, and you’ll realize a whole new respect for the art!” says Tony Labrusca.

“ML” will be screened at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and select Ayala Malls Cinemas during the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival run on August 4-12.

Tom Cruise rides higher than ever in ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’

Over the past two decades, Tom Cruise has produced, starred in and performed in the most mind-blowing stunts in the Mission: Impossible films, a global cultural phenomenon that has grossed more than $2.8 billion worldwide, making it one of the most successful franchises in movie history.

Now he returns for a sixth film in his role as Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team leader Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Fallout (in Philippine cinemas July 25).

According to Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a culmination of all of the previous films in the series. “You’re going to see characters brought back and storylines brought to a conclusion,” he says. “At the beginning of the film, the book The Odyssey was chosen for a very specific reason. The journey my character, Ethan Hunt, and his team go through is an odyssey inspired by and reflective of that story. It’s an epic personal tale, and there are enormous emotional stakes for the characters.”

Cruise, who launched the franchise in 1996, brings an unparalleled understanding of what makes a Mission: Impossible film work, observes screenwriter and director Christopher McQuarrie. “Tom is the keeper of the flame. He’s an instinctive, very emotional filmmaker. He knows Ethan Hunt, and he knows what makes him an appealing character on a truly instinctive level.”

McQuarrie believes one of the reasons the franchise remains so popular is Cruise’s insatiable desire to make each film more thrilling and intense than its predecessor. “It never stands still,” says the director, who also directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. “But most importantly it never forgets the audience. Tom is first and foremost an entertainer. Everything he’s doing in the movies is to take you places you’ve never been, to show you things you’ve never seen, and to put you in the experience right there with him.”

For Mission: Impossible – Fallout, McQuarrie was eager to explore a darker and more human side of the film’s central character. “Ethan has always been a bit of a mystery,” he observes. “This time I wanted to be more inside his head and feel his connection with other people. The title refers not only to nuclear fallout but also to the fallout of all of Ethan’s good intentions. He has walked into a situation beyond his control, and he has to go through it even though he knows he’s being manipulated.”

Cruise embodies his character in a way that few action stars ever have, concludes producer Jake Myers. “Tom not only brings great drama to the role, but he has the physical ability to do things another performer would not, both by his training and his daring. I think you can probably separate most other action franchises from their stars, but without Tom there really isn’t an Ethan Hunt, at least not the one audiences worldwide have so wholeheartedly embraced.”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The best intentions often come back to haunt you. Mission: Impossible – Fallout finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Vhing Rhames) along with some familiar allies (Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan) in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby also join the dynamic cast with filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie returning to the helm.

‘Harry and Patty’ speaks of Ahron Villena, Kakai Bautista’s not so beautiful love story

How come one love story, that may have a not so beautiful beginning, would become like a fairy tale and end up with a perfect happy ending?

Harry and Patty is a romantic comedy that proves even the biggest lie cannot stop real love from finding its way. The story is about two people who are very much unalike; Harry is an attractive young businessman while Patty is a typical young woman who drives a TNVS for a living; they have different take on love and attraction. Their first meeting starts with disgust and comic misunderstandings but opposites attract and this led them to a head-in-the-clouds romantic relationship. But when everything starts to be perfectly going on its way, someone from their past tends to jeopardize their blossoming relationship. Is it still possible to be real when you are hiding secrets from the person you love?

The film is about how love brings out the beauty in a person, not just physically, but the beauty that emerges from each characters they share the virtue of life and happiness.

At the helm is the director of “Deadma Walking,” Julius Ruslin Alfonso, and writer Volta delos Santos.

Ahron Villena and Kakai Bautista play as the funny and lovable couple Harry and Patty. Also starring Heaven Peralejo, Mark Neumann, Carmi Martin, Bodjie Pascua, Donna Cariaga, Joe Vargas, Lou Veloso and Soliman Cruz, with the special participation of Arci Muñoz.

Opening across Philippine cinemas on August 1, Harry and Patty is produced by Cineko Productions and distributed by ABS-CBN Films through Cine Screen.

Legendary animator Mark Henn headlines Disney’s ‘Hall D’ at AsiaPOP Comicon

Legendary Disney animator Mark Henn flew-in to town to spearhead and serve as the main attraction in Disney’s first-ever ‘Hall D’ in Asia through AsiaPOP Comicon scheduled at SMX Mall of Asia on Sunday, July 29.

“It’s an incredible honor to be part of Disney’s first-ever `Hall D’ in Asia, and I’m as excited as ever to meet and engage with Disney fans in the Philippines,” said Henn who’s a first-time visitor to the country.

A veteran animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios for 38 years, Henn is currently serving as the 2D animation supervisor for the studios’ upcoming feature film, “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” (in Philippine cinemas November 21).

Henn will hold an exclusive presentation inside `Hall D,’ tracing his beginnings at Disney, up to the illustrious present. Henn is the artist behind the classic Disney characters Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Jasmine in “Aladdin,” Young Simba in “The Lion King,” title characters “Mulan” and “Pochahontas,” and Princess Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog.”

In 2000, Henn traded his pencil for a director’s chair on the award-winning short “John Henry,” based on the popular American legend.

Previously, Henn served as lead 2D animator on the Academy Award®-winning “Big Hero 6” and “Frozen.”

“Big Hero 6” (Pictured) Mark Henn. Photo by Patrick Wymore. ©2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
About “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the netizens—to help navigate their way, including a webite entrepreneur named Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site “BuzzzTube.” Directed by Rich Moore (“Zootopia,” “Wreck-It Ralph”) and Phil Johnston (co-writer “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Cedar Rapids,” co-writer “Zootopia,”), and produced by Clark Spencer (“Zootopia,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Bolt”), “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-Ralph 2” hits Philippine theaters on Nov. 21, 2018.

When “Wreck-It Ralph” opened on Nov. 2, 2012, it turned in the highest opening weekend ever for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film at the time of release. Nominated for an Oscar® and Golden Globe® for best animated feature, “Wreck-It Ralph” won the PGA Award for outstanding producer of an animated theatrical motion picture as well as five Annie Awards, including best animated feature, director, cast and screenplay. The film was named best animated feature by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, earned outstanding achievement in casting for an animated feature by the Casting Society of America, and won the Kids’ Choice Award for favorite animated movie.

Winnie the Pooh, friends get character posters for Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’

The lovable residents of Hundred Acre Wood get out of the forest and into the city in Disney’s new family adventure, “Christopher Robin.”

Take your first look at the brand new character posters of Winnie The Pooh and his friends in the newly-released one-sheet artworks from Disney.

Christopher Robin’s best friend, WINNIE THE POOH (Jim Cummings), is a cuddly, slightly-worn teddy bear full of optimism whose tummy is often rumbly. Pooh delivers simple thoughts on life which turn out to be surprisingly profound.

Fearless, outgoing, energetic and incredibly self-assured, TIGGER (Jim Cummings) is an orange and black-striped tiger who often leaps before he looks.

EEYORE (Brad Garrett) is an old grey donkey with a melancholy—but endearing—disposition and a penchant for sarcasm. Eeyore tends to wallow in misery and proceeds through life with very low expectations, but he is loved by Christopher Robin and all his friends.

PIGLET (Nick Mohammed) is a petite, angst-ridden pig who is shy, soft-spoken and easily frightened.

A kind-hearted female kangaroo, KANGA (Sophie Okonedo) is mother to Roo and a warm and maternal figure to all the animals.

Disney’s “Christopher Robin” will be released in Philippine cinemas nationwide August 1, 2018.

About Christopher Robin

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who embarked on countless adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with his band of spirited and lovable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.

Now grown up, Christopher Robin is stuck in a job where he is overworked, underpaid and facing an uncertain future. He has a family of his own, but his work has become his life, leaving little time for his wife and daughter. Christopher has all but forgotten his idyllic childhood spent with a simple-minded, honey-loving stuffed bear and his friends. But when he is reunited with Winnie-the-Pooh, now tattered and soiled from years of hugs and play, their friendship is rekindled, reminding Christopher of the endless days of childlike wonder and make believe that defined his youth, when doing nothing was considered the very best something. Following an unfortunate mishap with Christopher Robin’s briefcase, Pooh and the rest of the gang including Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger, step out of the forest and venture into London to return the crucial possessions…because best friends will always be there for you.

Disney’s “Christopher Robin” is directed by Golden Globe® nominee Marc Forster from a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Oscar® nominee Allison Schroeder and a story by Perry based on characters created by A.A. Milne. The producers are Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr with Renée Wolfe and Jeremy Johns serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe winner Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Emmy® winner Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voices of: Jim Cummings as Winnie-the-Pooh; Chris O’Dowd as Tigger; three-time Emmy winner Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Oscar winner Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo as Kanga.

GUIDE: International Silent Film Festival Manila 2018

Now on its 12th year, the International Silent Film Festival Manila will run from August 30 to September 2 at SM Megamall. Admission is still free for the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The International Silent Film Festival Manila (ISFFM), renowned as the first and oldest silent film festival in Southeast Asia is having its 12th installment this 2018. Founded in 2007, the festival was a unique collaborative initiative led by the Goethe Institut Philippinen together with the Japan Foundation – Manila, and the Instituto Cervantes. The festival has grown as it continues to celebrate arts and cultural heritage through international silent films with live music, scored by Filipino artists. This year, there are eight participating countries to celebrate yet another year of intercultural collaboration—- Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, U.S. and the Philippines.

ISFFM 2018 will screen eight silent films, to be live-scored by local musicians. The participating embassies and cultural institutions include: the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the Goethe Institut Philippinen, the Philippine-Italian Association, Japan Foundation-Manila, Instituto Cervantes and the Embassies of the United States of America, Austria and France.

Complete lineup of musicians to follow.

Schedule of Screenings

August 30 (Thursday)

08:00 pm ITALY – Rapsodia Satanica (Satanic Rhapsody)

August 31 (Friday)

07:00 pm PHILIPPINES – This is Not A Lost Film
09:00 pm FRANCE – La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc

September 1 (Saturday)

04:00 pm GERMANY – Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
06:00 pm JAPAN – A Straightforward Boy
08:00 pm USA – Our Hospitality

September 2 (Sunday)

05:00 pm SPAIN – Frivolinas
07:30 pm AUSTRIA – Die kleine Veronika

Erik Matti’s ‘Buy Bust’ to open 14th Cinemalaya filmfest

Action-thriller “BuyBust” will open the 14th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival on August 3, at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater). The opening film will be screened at 7 p.m., following the opening program at 6 p.m.

Directed by Erik Matti, the film follows rookie police officer Nina Manigan who joins the anti-narcotic elite squad. Soon, two teams are deployed to conduct a buy-bust operation in the slums of Manila. Realizing that the mission is poorly executed, the anti-narcotic squad finds themselves trapped by a gang of slum settlers and needs to fight their way out to escape.

Co-produced by Reality Entertainment and Viva Films, “BuyBust” is deemed as one of the most ambitious first full-on action films in recent local cinema history. With a budget of over ₱80 million, the film employed more than 300 stuntmen and utilized over 250,000 grams of gunpowder.

Production began in 2016, with the filming lasting 56 days starting in March 2017. The film premiered on June 29, 2018 at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and was the festival’s closing feature film.

The film is topbilled by actress Anne Curtis who played the lead role, and MMA fighter Brandon Vera. Completing the cast are Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, Nonie Buencamino, Lao Rodriguez, Alex Calleja, Levi Ignacio, Ricky Pascua, Joross Gamboa, Sheenly Gener, Mara Lopez, AJ Muhlach, Tarek El Tayech, Maddie Martinez, Nafa Hilario, Ian Ignacio, and Mikey Alcaraz.

The screening of “BuyBust” will be invitational, with limited tickets available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The tickets will be distributed on August 3, starting at 2 pm, at the CCP Little Theater Lobby.

Cinemalaya, the country’s biggest indie film festival in the Philippines, will run from August 3 to 12, at various venues of the CCP and selected Ayala Mall Cinemas. It is a project of the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc., the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Ayala Malls Cinemas. Established in 2005, the film festival aims to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers.

READ MORE: Complete Guide to Cinemalaya 2018

Following the theme “Wings of Vision,” this year’s Cinemalaya features 10 full-length films and 10 short films in the Main Competition section, vying for the major awards.

There are also the festival’s mainstays: Dokyu, the documentary section; Best of the Festivals, which showcases the best films from local festivals; Indie Nation, a special section featuring independent films; Visions of Asia, featuring award-winning Asian and NETPAC films. There will also be a showcase of the final projects of the Directing and Production Management workshops under the 4th Cinemalaya Institute.

Cinemalaya and Nespresso also partnered to bring the Nespresso Vertical Short Competition. Following the theme “Pagmamalasakit (Empathy),” the vertical shorts competition seeks to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers.

There will also be a tribute to Maryo J. Delos Reyes through a special screening of his best films “Bagets” and “Magnifico”; and to Bernardo Bernardo by showing “Manila by Night” by Ishmael Bernal. Retrospective section will feature the 2017 Cinemalaya Best Film “Respeto” by Treb Monteras, and “Baconaua” by Joseph Israel Laban who won Best Director.

On its 30th edition, the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, considered the longest-running independent film competition of its kind in the ASEAN region, will once again harvest the best of the best, with films competing in various categories such as Short Feature/Narrative, Experimental, Documentary and Animation. Pre-selected entries will be screened on August 4-6 at the CCP Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theater).

The Cinemalaya Campus, a major component of Cinemalaya, is slated on August 7 & 8 at the Silangan Hall. The Cinemalaya Awards Night will be held on August 12, 2018 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).

For more information, visit,, or Cinemalaya Facebook page. You may also call CCP Media Arts at 832-1125 local 1704 to 1705. For ticket inquiries, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704.

Lily James channels Meryl Streep in ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’

When it came to casting the part of Young Donna in Universal Pictures’ new romantic musical, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the filmmakers knew whomever they chose would have some very big overalls to fill.

Lily James, known for her astonishing work in films from Baby Driver and Cinderella to her star-making turn in Downton Abbey, takes the character to an unexpected level. “Lily embodied the spirit of Donna; she was minxy and perfect to play her,” raves producer Judy Craymer. “I know she had a long hard think before taking the role because playing a younger Meryl Streep is a challenge for any actress, but she immersed herself in the idea. This was a chance to work on a beloved musical, and Lily has a pure, beautiful voice.”

While it was of course important to the filmmaking team that their Young Donna remind audiences quite a bit of the Donna we know and love, mirror image was never crucial to the production. Producer Gary Goetzman explains just what James accomplishes: “Lily transcends whether you think she looks exactly like Meryl or doesn’t; that doesn’t matter. She brings that young Meryl character in such a strong, aggressive and beautifully acted way.” He echoes Craymer, raving: “She’s a tour-de-force, and what a singing voice. She is a fabulous actor.”

To have the support of producers and ABBA frontmen alike meant everything to James. Still, the number-one nod of approval she needed was from Donna herself. Meryl Streep shares that she was deeply moved by James’ interpretation of the character. “I knew Lily from Downton Abbey, where she plays a demure blonde with a naughty tinge to her character, and I thought, ‘She’s perfect.’ But then when I saw the film, I had no idea that she had these singing chops and was such a fantastic performer and dancer. Her spirit is what I hope Young Donna was; she really captured it.”

Streep appreciated the character study James had given Donna, and loved that the young actress had watched Mamma Mia! The Movie at least 10 times in preparation to step on set. She even had Donna’s signature hands-in-overalls move down pat. “Lily has that dancing energy in her voice,” reflects the performer. “There are some people who stand there and sing, and there are some people who sing from the bottom of their feet and shake the rafters. She’s amazing, and did a great job.”

James found the opportunity both thrilling and challenging: “This is such a huge role to take on because Donna as a character is so beloved, and Meryl Streep is the best actress of all time. I couldn’t have been more excited. The life, power and the spirit of that woman is so intoxicating. I have loved the opportunity to show who Donna was before the point that Meryl takes over, before she has her heart broken by Sam and before she was left on the island with a baby.”

James first saw Mamma Mia! in the West End when she was a child. “I loved Mamma Mia! so much when I was growing up because the music is just mind-blowing. The more you listen to it, the more you love it. You know the songs so well, but woven into this story are characters that you fall in love with—who are all so imperfect, colorful and full of life. It is an unconventional story, fun and unapologetic.”

Telling the story of Donna back when she “used to have fun,” James says of her character: “You see Young Donna as she is leaving University in Oxford. You get a real insight into her diary, following this flighty girl who wants to see the world and isn’t satisfied with the norm. She wants to break free and find herself. You see her meet these three men and the journey that ultimately makes her the Donna we all know and love.”

Naturally, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is building on the phenomenal success of the previous film, and James respects all that have come before her to make this magic. “This movie has the same feel and tone of Mamma Mia! The Movie. It has the must-have classic ABBA songs you’d expect, but also some less well known songs that are also hits. We are back on Kalokairi and the characters we fell so deeply in love with in the first movie are all back. On top of that, you get to see these characters when they were younger, and there is something heartfelt, funny and satisfying about that.”

Now playing in Philippine cinemas, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.