Mia! hit theaters this summer, gays, girls -- and
even John McCain -- stood in the aisles to cheer on
Meryl, her all-star supporting cast, and Abba's
brilliant songbook. And six months after its release,
the film is still setting records -- Mamma Mia! even
managed to top the U.K. box-office gross of the first
Harry Potter and Titanic.
versions of the movie musical now available on DVD, fans
are sure to discover the magic of Mamma Mia!
again and again. On the eve of the DVD's release,
director Phyllida Lloyd -- who also directed the stage
version -- talked about the process of bringing one of
the biggest musicals of all time to the big screen.
Advocate.com:What was the biggest challenge for you in bringing
Mamma Mia! to the big screen?Phyllida Lloyd: Well, we have a big advantage
with Mamma Mia! in that it is already a story
with a location. So, having come from a number of other
musicals, I was fearful about making the transition.
But once you bring Greece and the Greek Islands into
this, it all comes together.
How did you set out to actually find filming locations? The production designer and I went on the most
incredible helicopter trip over Greece and the Greek
Islands to find this dream Mamma Mia! world. We did
an extensive and actually terrifying journey in a
helicopter and we actually ended up on an island where
I had been with a backpack at 18.
So, in a sense, you were channeling Meryl's
character in the film. [Laughs] For those of us who are
Europeans, Greece does represent a sort of dreamscape
in some ways. It really is a connection with the
ancient world -- a sort of land that time forgot.
Having come from the stage show, how involved were
you with the casting process for the film? I was very involved with the casting -- and once
we were able to cast Meryl Streep, everything started
to come more easily. People took us seriously. I think
there was a certain curiosity to it -- if she was
taking it seriously...
Well, and then you get the trio of Meryl Streep,
Julie Walters, and Christine Baranski. It was a complete privilege...and it was
very funny. All three of them were very open, and it
was an environment where everybody was able to
contribute their ideas. During rehearsal time we all worked
together to really explore what we were doing. They
were all very relaxed with each other.
How long did you have to rehearse? Several weeks, which isn't usual, but we
did take several weeks to get all of those dances. I
don't think I was meant to be rehearsing the
scenes as well, but we did, and I'm glad we had that
time. A lot of directors don't like to do
rehearsal, but for the dance numbers, we
couldn't rehearse on the day.
Audiences love this movie, and the news has just
come out that this is one of the biggest hits of all
time around the world. What sort of feedback have
you received? Just very humbling and mind-blowing feedback --
and not just from women, who are loving the movie. I
think the best compliment I could have received about
the film came from someone who had been made redundant
from his job after 25 years. He said, "If it hadn't
been for Mamma Mia! I don't know how I would
have gotten through it." Julie Walters has been
touring in support of her book and she says people
have been coming up to her again and again with
similar stories. This is the sort of movie that has the
power to make you feel better about a very bleak
Something that is very unique about Mamma Mia! is
that I think you manage to capture the energy of a
live theater experience on film. Thank you for that. Yes, we were very used to
watching Mamma Mia! live, and so we were desperately
trying to generate that sort of live experience, not knowing
exactly how we were going to do it. So that's
why the film has that slightly homespun feel to it.
It's a very un-Hollywood kind of musical.
Before I let you go, I have to ask you about
Meryl's performance of "The Winner Takes
It All," which, to me, is one of the most
thrilling moments I've ever had in a movie
theater. How many takes did you do of that? I think we shot it in four takes, but in all
honesty, we probably only needed about two of those.
We had bad weather for two days when we were meant to
shoot it, so we had some time to rehearse it. It was one of
those moments where you're watching someone who knows
how to use words so well, who knows how to close the
gap between themselves and the text. When
you're watching it, you think, Truly this
must be live because it seems so real.
is available on DVD now.