Mamma Mia! fans likely know all of the words to the ABBA songs throughout — and they probably know a lot of the dance moves — but what they might not know is some of the interesting stuff that went on behind the scenes while making the 2008 movie musical and 2018’s sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
There might be plenty of visual stimulation on screen, but we bet you’ll find these tidbits just as interesting. Have a look at 17 interesting facts about one of the most highly-anticipated blockbusters of summer 2018:
17. The first movie made serious cash.
You’ve probably gleaned that 2008’s Mamma Mia! made enough money to warrant a sequel, but you might just be surprised at how much it actually made. It made a total of $615.7 million with 144.1 million from the United States alone and $471.6 from the rest of the world. Not bad when you consider the movie had a budget of $52 million. It was the 14th highest grossing film of the 2008 Box Office. FYI: The Dark Knight was number one.
16. It won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.
Yeah, it might have made a lot of dough, but the movie was still recognized at the Golden Raspberry Awards, aka the Razzies. For the 2008 Razzies, Pierce Brosnan received the Worst Supporting Actor award for his role in Mamma Mia!. If you’re curious, he was up against Ben Kingsley in The Love Guru and The Wackness and War, Inc., Burt Reynolds in Deal and In the Name of the King, Verne Troyer in The Love Guru and Postal and Uwe Boll (as himself) in Postal.
15. …But Meryl Streep was nominated for a Golden Globe.
It wasn’t just the Razzies Mamma Mia! gained nominations at. The movie was well received by the critics as much as the fans. It scored a series of nominations and wins. Some of the biggest nominations were the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture: Comedy or Musical and the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture: Comedy or Musical for Meryl Streep. Vicky Christina Barcelona took the first award while Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky to the second.
14. It held the record for highest grossing opening weekend for a movie inspired by a Broadway musical.
There have been a number of films inspired by Broadway musicals. Mamma Mia! set the record for highest grossing opening weekend. On its opening weekend, it made $27,751,240 domestically. The movie was later dethroned in 2014’s Into the Woods. The latter film opened with $30 million. It wasn’t too bad news for Meryl because she starred in both films.
13. Pierce Brosnan doesn’t care if people hate his singing.
If you thought that Pierce Brosnan was hurt about his Razzie or the fact that some people didn’t like his singing, you are wrong. Pierce told Uproxx, “I don’t know if the people will be excited, but one way or the other I shall sing again, whether they like it or not. I don’t care what they say! I love my voice! I think that it will grow on people. They will always just want to hear a little singing from me.” If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing 007’s singing voice (or you want a refresher), this clip will do the trick.
12. Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Newton-John were considered for the role of Donna.
We all know that Meryl Streep secured the part of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, but there were some other contenders. Olivia Newton-John and Michelle Pfeiffer were both considered for the part. They each had musical credits to their names so they both could have worked, but there is only one Meryl. According to a report in the British Press, Kim Basinger and Nicole Kidman were also in the running along with Meryl.
11. The “New York” parts of the movie were really filmed in London.
Harry (Colin Firth) was actually supposed to be from London. But, Sam (Pierce Brosnan) was supposed to be an Irish-American architect coming from New York. The “New York” we see in the movie is actually London. Movie-Locations.com reports that the “Manhattan” office block is the Lloyds Building in the City of London. We’ve been lied to!
10. There is a three-year age difference between Cher and Meryl.
A lot of people have been so pumped that Cher is in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again that they probably haven’t had time to do the math in regards to casting the legend to play Meryl’s mom. In real life, Meryl is 68 years old and born in 1949 and Cher is 72 and born in 1946. Yeah… We know that movies are fantasy, but still.
9. Lily James auditioned right before going to Glastonbury.
Talk about a very music-filled weekend. Lily James — who plays the younger version of Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again — auditioned before heading off to the Glastonbury Musical Festival in England. She revealed to Net-A-Porter’s Porter, “We went straight to Glastonbury and I think I got the part that weekend, but my agents knew not to call me, because I wouldn’t have been reachable!”
8. Former ABBA members serve as executive producers.
It would be a bit wrong if ABBA wasn’t involved in the Mamma Mia! movie at all considering it’s their songs the cast is belting out. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson are credited as executive producers from 2008’s Mamma Mia! alongside Mark Huffam, Rita Wilson, and Tom Hanks. If you’re wondering about the last two, they’re affiliated with production company Playtone. For the sequel, the two ABBA members remain as executive producers along with Richard Curtis.
7. The costumes actually received a lot of praise.
There are a lot of films that scream “fashion” with a capital “F.” Mamma Mia! definitely had a strong look, but it might not have been to everyone’s taste — especially with the overalls and the scenes with the glittery Spandex. But, you have to admire the costume designer’s imagination and remember this is a musical. Critics clearly appreciated the outfits because Ann Roth was nominated at the 2009 Costume Designers Guild Awards for Excellence in Costume Design for Film – Contemporary. FYI: Suttirat Larlarb for Slumdog Millionaire won the award, even beating out Patricia Field for Sex and the City.
6. Meryl Streep really did to the splits.
There were a lot of iconic and memorable scenes in Mamma Mia! One of the most memorable was when a then-58-year-old Meryl executes perfect midair splits after jumping on a bed. The legendary actress made it clear during an interview with the Guardian that it wasn’t CGI or a body double. It also wasn’t planned, either. She revealed, “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 splits for you right now.”
5. It was once the highest-grossing British film of all time.
We might consider Mamma Mia! a Greek film because of the location or a Swedish film because, hello, ABBA, but it is officially classified as a British film, with a 2009 BAFTA Awards Outstanding British Film nomination to prove it. Plus, it was filmed in parts at Pinewood Studios in England (see below). What’s more, it is recognized as being one of the highest-grossing British films of all time. In 2008, it was the highest grossing film ever at the UK box office. As of 2018, it still holds a place in the top 10 highest grossing British films. In comes in at number six, followed behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Skyfall, Spectre, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and Beauty and the Beast. Not bad company to be in!
4. The film made tourism to the Greek isle skyrocket.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the success of Mamma Mia! at the box office led to an explosion of interest for the Greek island of Kalokairi. Those wanting to relieve the Mamma Mia! experience quickly realized the name was fictional and the island was actually Skopelos. And it went from a quiet, unspoiled island in the Aegean Sea to a place where tourists go to dance on the same docks that Pierce, Amanda Seyfried and Meryl did. Just be aware that not everything from the movie is there. A number of things were brought in for filming and removed after.
3. Mamma Mia 2! was actually filmed in Croatia.
You might want to hold off buying that plane ticket to Greece if you’re hoping to see all of the scenes from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again because The Sun reports that the sequel was actually filmed on the island of Vis in Croatia. We’re not really spoiling anything when we say that it’s supposed to stand in for Kalokairi.
2. Cher was originally offered the role of Tanya.
This could explain part of the reason why Cher reportedly didn’t have to audition for her role in Mamma Mia 2. (Besides the fact she is a legend.) It has been reported that Cher was originally offered the part of Tanya in the OG movie, but turned it down because of previous commitments. The part went to Christine Baranski, and it’s hard to now imagine her not in the film. So, it seems like everything worked out for the best.
1. The villa set at the studios had real trees that were watered daily.
You know that the OG Mamma Mia! was shot in Kalokairi and parts of it at Pinewood. What might surprise you to learn is that a full set of Donna’s villa was made at Pinewood Studios – complete with real trees. The crew was so on it that they had lights and a watering system to ensure the plants flourished.