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.

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is what the first film should have been

Despite using lesser-known Abba songs, Ol Parker’s ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ knocks off the first film by having a focused narrative, offering more room for poignant character introspection.

If you have already seen the trailers released for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, you might have noticed the glaring absence of ‘The Dancing Queen’ herself, Meryl Streep. Well, there’s no way of working around this review without giving away this mild spoiler, so I’ll spill it out: her character Donna Sheridan has long been dead before this sequel started. But before Streep fans demand for a refund, do note that she still makes an appearance here (and she sings too) – that you have to wait. And before you raise both hands in the air saying how this might be the dumbest sequel decision ever, the film proves otherwise as this allows the story to have a more creative narrative direction.

This sequel, which also works as a prequel, plays on two timelines. Set a year after Donna’s passing, the present arc thankfully does not dwell much on gloom as her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) honors her memory by relaunching the Bella Donna Hotel. Donna’s best friends, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) makes a return to guide Sophie and share more of her mother’s past. Cue in the 1979 flashbacks when a free-spirited, young Donna (Lily James) first steps in Europe after graduating from college, chances upon a greek island and meets Sophie’s three potential dads: Harry (Hugh Skinner as young Colin Firth), Bill (Josh Dylan as young Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine as young Pierce Brosnan).

(L-R) Julie Walters as Rosie, Amanda Seyfried as Sophie Sheridan, and Christine Baranski as Tanya

Departing from the stage musical, Here We Go Again surprisingly captures the heart of the story more so than the first film did. Mamma Mia! The Movie is a 2008 endearing blockbuster but more often a ridiculous patchwork – its story simply built around Abba’s greatest hits collection, with its songs shoehorned whether or not they have relevance to the story. Here, the narrative takes the driver seat and the tunes are suitably chosen to enhance it. The stakes remain to be light for a festive summer level: Can Sophie successfully relaunch her hotel with a looming storm ahead? Can she sustain a long distance relationship with her husband Sky (Dominic Cooper)? How will young Donna navigate a new world filled with short-lived affairs and unexpected pregnancy? The film does little to advance the story but if offers more room for poignant character introspection.

(L-R) Colin Firth as Harry Bright, Stellan Skarsgard as Bill Anderson, and Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael

But of course, the main reason why you would see this film is to be enthralled by its elaborately choreographed and lavishly produced musical numbers. While the first film surely exhausted most of Abba’s more popular hits, this sequel makes do with some melancholic, non-single tracks like “Andante Andante,” “I’ve Been Waiting for You” and “My Love, My Life.” The notable performances remain to be the welcome rehashes of “Dancing Queen” featuring a dancing crowd on top of landward boats, a kinetic “Waterloo” which is aptly set in a French restaurant, or a sharply edited “I Have a Dream” that gracefully intersperses young Donna’s dilapidated villa to Sophie’s fully refurbished hotel, evoking a timeless bond between mother and daughter.

While Streep is sorely missed for the most parts, Lily James radiates with a wild, positive energy needed to anchor this film. As the film kicks off, young Donna says during her valedictory speech that the best things in life are unexpected and before we know it, she blasts off with an impromptu performance of “When I Kissed the Teacher” – it’s a declaration to the audience that she has the singing chops to do this. Her back-ups, the Dynamos, young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rosie (Alexa Davies) are also wonderful, uncanny good matches of their older counterparts. The same can be said for the younger versions of Harry, Bill and Sam who can actually sing well too. This film excels in its casting choices, for the most part.

Donna and the Dynamos singing ‘Mamma Mia’ (L-R): Jessica Keenan Wynn as Young Tanya, Lily James as Young Donna, and Alexa Davies as Young Rosie.

The film’s superstar, Cher with a platinum wig and shows up fashionably late (and uninvited) via helicopter as Ruby Sheridan… the er, mother of Donna. It’s an odd casting choice if we are to be reminded that Cher is almost the same age with Streep and her Dynamos. But before the flawed logic sinks in, the audience will already be swept away as she sings “Fernando” to Sophie’s hotel manager, Andy Garcia. The whole subplot has the weakest link to the main story, a mere excuse to generate starpower and let Cher sing. Oh well, cue in the fireworks spectacle.

Cher as Ruby Sheridan, Donna’s mother and Sophie’s grandmother.

And so, for the credits scene, the past and present timelines meet as the original casts and their younger incarnations sing and jive to one final glamorous song of “Super Trouper.” No matter how much of a calculated crowd-pleaser Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is, it has touching insights on friendships, romantic relationships and mother-daughter relationships, more so than the first film achieved. It’s flashy, fleeting, campy and jukebox as ever… how could you resist it?

Listen to the full soundtrack below.


4 out of 5 stars


Distributed by Universal Pictures, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again‘ is now showing in PH cinemas starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Dominic Cooper, Andy García, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan with Cher and Meryl Streep. Written and directed by Ol Parker. Run time: 114 minutes.

Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper reunite in ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’

Engaged lovers in the first Mamma Mia! The Movie, Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper reprise their roles as Sophie and Sky in Universal Pictures’ new romantic musical, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Returning to the role of Sophie, Amanda Seyfried talks of her affinity for the character: “It is a special opportunity to come back and play Sophie. In the first movie I was just 21; it was one of my first big films, and I was genuinely playing myself from the first day to the end credits. We are coming back 10 years later in reality, but in the story it is about half of that—so not so much has changed for Sophie as it has for me. The glee is still very much alive and perhaps even more so.”

“When I read the script, I was completely blown away,” adds Seyfried. “Ol [Parker] has created such depth with new dynamics and character arcs that are realistic. When the music stops, you have to deal with things that are sometimes heart-breaking and then the music starts again. That is life, and there are a lot of messages in this story. I can’t think of a better way to continue Mamma Mia!”

Fortunately for the audience, Seyfried has a number of ABBA songs to perform in the follow-up film. “Discussing why she is excited for audiences to experience Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the actress takes a moment. “We are back on a crazy beautiful island, ABBA is back in my life and I have a completely new appreciation of their music; there are songs I never knew I loved so much. I can’t believe what I’m about to say, but this movie is bigger, better and more spectacular than the original. I didn’t see it coming, but boy am I ever glad.”

Her on-screen mother reflects on what Seyfried accomplishes in this chapter: “Amanda brings something to this incarnation of Mamma Mia! that’s very special,” offers Streep. “She’s the heartbeat of the film. Her emotion carries the whole story forward, and she really moved me. I think she’s magic. Plus, she’s got a cracking great voice, and she gets to use it more in this film.”

Dominic Cooper returns to the role of Sky, Sophie’s boyfriend, and the duo sings “One of Us” together; that sequence stands out to the actor. “The song is about two people who are just not right for each other and are having a tough time. Sky and Sophie are thinking about breaking up. It doesn’t feel like it is going to work out, so it’s a great duet. I’ve never heard the song this way before, and it gives it a new life.”

Making his welcome return to the role, Cooper talks about revisiting the character 10 years after the first film was released. “Even though you don’t think about them every day, there is a part of every character you have played inside of you. With Sky, it is clear what his role is, and I felt comfortable going back. It was like putting on an old comfy pair of shoes. It is a joy to be back in the environment, seeing these people and being back on the incredible set that was rebuilt for this production.”

Cooper walks us through where we find Sophie and Sky: “We’ve gone our separate ways to embark on our careers. Sophie is trying to renovate her mother’s villa, and Sky has gone to New York to learn hotel management. At the beginning of the movie, there is a phone call that suggests I won’t be coming to the opening of her wonderful hotel she has been working on for so long. We have an argument that could possibly be the end of the relationship.”

Summarizing the essence of the film, Cooper says: “This is a story about life. It’s about generations, success and failure—romance, friendships, and how important work is in our lives. Seeing people making mistakes and watching how they move forward. All this coincides with moving lyricism, which lifts up the story with a wonderful joy.”

In Philippine cinemas July 18, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

About Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Get ready to sing and dance, laugh and love all over again. Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA.

Reprising their roles from Mamma Mia! The Movie are Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep as Donna, Julie Walters as Rosie and Christine Baranski as Tanya. Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper reunite as Sophie and Sky, while Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Oscar® winner Colin Firth return to play Sophie’s three possible dads: Sam, Bill and Harry.

As the film goes back and forth in time to show how relationships forged in the past resonate in the present, James will play the role of Young Donna. Filling the roles of Young Rosie and Young Tanya are Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn. Young Sam will be played by Jeremy Irvine, while Young Bill is Josh Dylan and Young Harry is Hugh Skinner.

WATCH: Celebrate life in new trailer for ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’

Dance, jive, and have the time of your life! Check out the new trailer for Universal Pictures’ new musical comedy Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again n Philippine cinemas July 18.

Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA. With the film’s original cast expected to return and new additions joining them, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again will delight audiences this July.

With a soundtrack full of ABBA songs not featured in the first film—along with some reprised favorites—Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again once more brings the producers of the original film, Littlestar’s Judy Craymer and Playtone’s Gary Goetzman, together. Craymer is also the creator and producer of the smash-hit stage musical. Ol Parker, writer of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, writes and directs. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus are aboard again to provide music and lyrics and serve as executive producers.

About Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

WATCH: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ trailer goes back to the beginning

Universal Pictures has just released the new trailer for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the follow-up the 2007 global hit, Mamma Mia! The Movie. Check out the trailer below.

Get ready to sing and dance, laugh and love all over again.

Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie grossed more than $600 million around the world, you are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA. With the film’s original cast expected to return and new additions joining them, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again will delight audiences in Philippine cinemas this July.

With a soundtrack full of ABBA songs not featured in the first film—along with some reprised favorites—Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again once more brings the producers of the original film, Littlestar’s Judy Craymer and Playtone’s Gary Goetzman, together. Craymer is also the creator and producer of the smash-hit stage musical. Ol Parker, writer of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, writes and directs. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus are aboard again to provide music and lyrics and serve as executive producers.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.