Pierce Brosnan had no idea what the project was about when he signed on. The producers told him it was being filmed in Greece and Meryl Streep was starring. Brosnan said he would've signed on for anything involving Streep, describing her as "that gorgeous blonde I fancied terribly in Drama School."
Stellan Skarsgård on why he flashed his behind: "We decided I should be cooking on the boat. I thought I should have an apron on. The director (Phyllida Lloyd) did not know I would be naked under there and have those butt tattoos. So when the camera rolled, I turned around right in front of it. The cameraman jumped and screamed, while Phyllida keeled over laughing."
At the start of the "Dancing Queen" scene, the picture on Meryl Streep's bedroom mirror is Amanda Seyfried's professional head shot. At the end of 'Our Last Summer,' Donna is holding a collection of photos, including an actual baby picture of Seyfried.
Meryl Streep went to Stockholm, Sweden to do her vocal for the song "The Winner Takes it All." She finished it in one take. Benny Andersson, former ABBA member and co-composer of the songs, called Streep "a miracle."
Meryl Streep first saw the musical in October 2001 with her daughter Louisa and her daughter's friends in Manhattan. Streep wrote to the producers to praise them for bringing a little happiness and fun to the lives of New York's people following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
All of the songs were re-orchestrated for the film version, differing from the stage version and their original arrangements. "Under Attack", "One of Us," and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" were removed from the script. "The Name of the Game" was filmed, but removed from the final cut; it is included as an extra on the DVD release. "Thank You for the Music" plays over the closing credits. "When All is Said and Done" was never part of the stage show. Donna hums a few bars of "Fernando," one of ABBA's biggest hits, as she walks into the old goat house while the fathers are hiding upstairs. (The song is about war, and the writers couldn't find a way to fit it into the story.)
An undercurrent of the film is to structure the story as a Greek comedy (like Aristophanes), including patterns of strophe and anti-strophe, a chorus representing the common people, and costumes matched to moods of the characters, including masks and the phallic props typical of Greek comedy.
In the original stage musical, the character of Bill Austin was Australian. This paid homage to ABBA's enormous popularity in Australia. For the film, Bill Anderson was Swedish like Stellan Skarsgård who plays him.
Early in pre-production, the producers suggested including a newly-written original song, to qualify for the Academy Awards' Original Song Category. Former ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus refused. Andersson composed some additional music, but the film was ineligible for the Original Song category because all songs were already published.
The first film shot on the new 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios, following a fire after Casino Royale (2006) wrapped. The new 59,000 sq. ft. stage was used for song and dance numbers that could not be filmed in the sun in Greece.
Dawn French was originally cast as Rosie. After the creators described her character as "the fat, funny one," and the musical director was clearly not impressed with her singing, she declined the role. In her autobiography "Dear Fatty," Dawn said that she is a fan of ABBA, but she is not a fan of 'Mamma Mia!', and only originally agreed to do the film because Meryl Streep was starring.
The stage play first opened in London on April, 6th, 1999, at the Prince Edward theater. Its North American debut was May 23rd, 2000, at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre. The original Toronto cast then started Mamma Mia!'s pre-Broadway tour in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. During the Chicago performances, Louise Pitre and Tina Maddigan were invited to play their same roles in the original Broadway cast. The Broadway opening directed by Phyllida Lloyd, was October 18th, 2001, at the Winter Garden Theater, the former home of "Cats". The play was nominated by the 2002 Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book; Pitre was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical. By January 2010, the play had exceeded 4700 performances on Broadway, and is the tenth longest running Boardway show ever (February, 2013). As of April 2007, Mamma Mia! has open productions in: New York, London, Las Vegas, Madrid, Moscow, Stuttgart, Fukuoka, Gothenburg, and Essen. The US and International touring companies have performed in cities all over the globe, including Melbourne, Australia, Utrecht, The Netherlands, and Copenhagen and Horsens, Denmark. According to Variety, the play's original producer and writer "were broke when they first tried to put the show together and were even snubbed by the Swedish pop group whose music formed the basis for the show. They are now two of the wealthiest women in England."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
While the film heavily implies, but never explicitly reveals, who Sophie's real father is, there is a semi-official answer. According to writer Catherine Johnson and director Phyllida Lloyd, Sophie's real father is Bill - a Swede. Bill's character was Australian in the original stage production, but in the film is a Swede played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, meaning Sophie has her roots in Sweden - just like ABBA.
The song played as an instrumental at the beginning of the wedding is "Knowing Me, Knowing You". This song is about divorce, so it is totally inappropriate for a wedding ("Knowing me, knowing you, there is nothing we can do. Knowing me, knowing you, we just have to face it this time we're through. Breaking up is never easy, I know but I have to go...")