Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – Jeremy Irvine steps up to the mic

Jeremy Irvine on bluffing his way through the singing and dancing at auditions before stepping up to the mic as the young Pierce Brosnan in the summer blockbuster

Sun, sea, sex and superb songs. The formula is simple but so very effective.

Ten years after the original film’s winning combination of Abba songs, A-list acting talent, and stunning scenery comes a sequel that shows every sign of repeating its success.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again follows Amanda Seyfried as Sophie as she prepares to re-open the revamped hotel on the island. But the timeline is split. So we also head back to the events that led to her birth – showing how and why she acquired three possible dads (Pierce Brosnan, Stellen Skarsgård and Colin Firth).

My love story is the one with the real, genuine emotional connection

Alongside the original “legacy cast” are a group of younger cast headed by Lily James in the role originally played by Meryl Streep.

Jeremy Irvine found fame in his first film, starring with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston in War Horse. He followed that with Great Expectations (alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes).

But Mamma Mia! marks his singing and dancing debut, playing the young version of Pierce Brosnan’s character, Sam.

Take a Chance On Me

Jeremy Irvine: “It is a change of scene and pace and style for me –  I certainly never thought I would be in musicals. But I did my second ever movie with Ol Parker, and we had a wonderful connection. He got me to audition for young Sam, the young Pierce Brosnan role.

“I just had to bluff my way through the singing and dancing. I knew I got on with the director, I just had to convince about 100 producers at Universal, because with a budget this eye-wateringly enormous they don’t want to take chances.”

Lay All Your Love On Me

“In the film, each of the three love stories has its own purpose – it encompasses three of the many different types of sexual encounter you have growing up and trying to figure everything out.

“And I think my one is the one with the real, genuine emotional connection. He regrets leaving her for the next 30 years, as he says in the first film. My job is to make sure we really believe he would torture himself for 30 years after and regret it for the rest of his life!”

Knowing Me, Knowing You

“Pierce was incredibly generous with his time. He really made me feel welcome. We had tea in his dressing room the first day we were in together, we hung out and there were lots of dinners in the evenings.

“It must be difficult for Pierce – because he knows that for guys of my generation he is James Bond. But he doesn’t ignore that, he is very self-effacing, tackles it head on and makes you feel so welcome. There is a lot to be learnt from him.”

The Name of the Game

“For the big song and dance numbers, the assistant directors whose job is to control everyone on set have a microphone they call the Voice of God. It comes through speakers and blares out instructions.

“When they’re saying ‘Meryl, step to your left’, or ‘Cher step forward’, you wonder what weird dream world you have walked into.”

I Have A Dream

Filming Mamma Mia! was like a four-month holiday with a load of mates on a beautiful island.

“I was picked up for work by speedboat. There was a Mamma Mia! flotilla to take us to the set – you would walk down the jetty and there was Pierce and Colin Firth stepping on their boats to be taken to another stunning location.

“It was an absolute joke – I made the mistake of bringing my parents and little brother out to stay with me, and now they think that is what every movie is like. So every time I complain about a hard day’s work in the future I will get laughed at.

There were a lot of cast parties, and at some point in the night ‘Dancing Queen’ would always come on. I will never have as much fun on a job ever again.”

Thank You For The Music

“I was filming Thailand and knew we were doing Mamma Mia! next. I flew home, landed at 3am, got a call at 9am saying Benny was in the studio in Hampstead. So of course I went to see him. The next thing I knew I was in the booth recording.

“You think with a $100m movie, there would be months of training. Nope! When you are singing in front of people it is incredibly naked. I got stagefright like never before.

“I like to think I can sing, but I won’t be searching my name online for a while! At school, I had one line to sing in Les Miserables and it was parodied for years to come. Even the drama teacher herself did impressions of me in Les Mis. I blame that on a voice going through the process of breaking.

“In this film you have some of the slightly less known Abba songs, and Benny and Bjorn really worked on the new versions for the film. There is a lovely one called ‘Andante Andante’, which Lily sings. I sang a verse in it until the final cut of the movie – so close – but it is a really beautiful ballad.”

Without a song or a dance, what are we?

“If you are not able to make yourself look silly and take the piss a bit, then life becomes very boring. As a non-dancer, whenever I start dancing I am already laughing at myself.

“Whether you are an Abba fan or not, you know the words to ‘Dancing Queen’. You have Abba pumped into you through osmosis – at every shopping mall, school disco or wedding you ever go to. It is so ingrained in our culture – that’s the unique appeal of Abba.

“When the original film came out I was a grumpy, rebellious 18 year old so the last thing I wanted to watch was Mamma Mia. So only now, when the trailers are out, the posters are up and we are on the side of buses am I beginning to realise how big the fanbase is. How nice to have a movie coming out that people already like!

“Some movies have deep political meaning, some just make you feel good – and right now that is a good thing. You can escape whatever is going on in the world or your life when you are watching it.”

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is out in cinemas on July 20.

Image: Universal