They took a chance on the long-awaited sequel to “Mamma Mia,” but the rapturous reaction at Monday’s London film premiere suggested it was worth the 10-year gap. While the new film features the same A-list cast as the 2008 original, it was the introduction of Cher, playing Meryl Streep’s mother Ruby Sheridan, that made everyone starstruck.
“Acting with her was on my bucket list,” Andy Garcia told Variety on the blue carpet at the “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” launch at London’s Hammersmith Apollo theater. “The acting is one thing but the singing and all that… you have to look up to the heaven and say thank you.”
Cher was modest about the reaction, saying she was “really surprised” at how many fans had gathered to see her.
At 72, she’s only three years older than Meryl, something that amused them both. Cher was being interviewed at the premiere when Streep ran up and put her arms around her and shouted: “That’s my mommy! She’s got taller.”
When asked about the secret to their energy on set, Cher replied: “We’re immature.”
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Writer-director Ol Parker, who attended the premiere with his actress wife Thandie Newton, revealed that the majority of the cast and crew gathered to watch Cher sing “Fernando.” “It was ridiculous,” he told Variety. “People brought their husbands, wives, children and dogs to watch… and there was a storm of applause.”
“Cher is a remarkably lovely person,” he added. “She didn’t have to be. She is one of those people who is so next level. If Cher was to be a diva, she could be, but actually she’s warm, lovely and friendly.”
He also revealed the unlikely inspiration for the film’s format. “We stole the prequel-sequel format idea from ‘Godfather 2.’ It’s an homage to that.”
‘The Good Wife’ star Christine Baranski reprised her role as Tanya in the hit film and told Variety that working with Cher gave her a “pinch-me moment.”
“I loved her when I was a teenager and I thought, ‘Now I’m making a movie with her.’ We got to hang out and talk about the early days of Sonny and Cher.”
Baranski also felt that now was the right time to do the sequel. “The world’s in a sorry state right now and people are angry and scared. This movie is a trip to a Greek island, an escape, with ABBA songs, and this wonderful cast of actors. I think we’ve really done something special.”
It’s evident that there is a genuine friendship among the cast. “There was no one who stood out as demanding or temperamental, nobody,” added Christine.
Pierce Brosnan, who is back playing Sam, feels the film is “as good, if not better, than the last.”
Amanda Seyfried, who plays Donna’s daughter Sophie, agreed: “I enjoyed it more than I did the first time around. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
The film’s producer, Judy Craymer, who also created the original “Mamma Mia!” theater production, said: “There were a lot of people who said, ‘Are you sure about this? You did so well in the first one,’ so I think the stakes were high to do another film. But there was a lot of love and care that went into it, and it’s better than just rushing out a film two years after the first.”
The sequel includes younger versions of the key characters in the flashback scenes. Stellan Skarsgard related that he met Josh Dylan, who plays a younger version of his character Bill. “We met and he said, ‘Is there anything I should do to play you?’ I said, ‘Just have fun.’ He sings better than me, he looks better than me, he’s an improvement,” joked Skarsgard, who added that he was “not a natural dancer.”
Craymer added that she could “feel that people are loving” this new film. When whether a third “Mamma Mia” could be in the cards, she replied: “We’ll have to see.”