Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, and Jeremy Irvine are having the time of their lives (ooh oh, see that girl).
The three young actors faced the intimidating task of bringing to life three characters originally played by Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and Pierce Brosnan in the 2008 film (itself based on the West End/Broadway musical). One way they coped with the pressure? Competing to see who could stuff the most junk into the spandex outfits they sport in the film’s “Super Trouper” finale.
“It became a competition between the boys. How much stuff could you shove down the front of your spandex pants?” jokes Irvine, 28, who portrays Young Sam (played by Brosnan in the present day timeline). “Dominic Cooper really started being outrageous. He rolled up t-shirts and things. It was very funny.”
“The fruit bowl was barren by the end,” adds Skinner, 33, who plays Harry (Firth as an adult), while Dylan (the younger version of Skarsgård’s Bill) jokes that the costumes were both “sexy” and “empowering.”
When not busy shoving fruit down their trousers, the boys were busy learning dance steps, perfecting their takes on the beloved characters, and nailing the melodies to a cadre of songs. In advance of Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again hitting theaters on July 20, EW called up Skinner, Irvine, and Dylan to talk all things ABBA and the highly anticipated sequel.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Were you fans of the first film? And what was your audition experience like?
HUGH SKINNER (Young Harry): I saw the first film in the cinema, and I was completely blown away. I really loved it.
JOSH DYLAN (Young Bill): I’d obviously seen the first film and remember enjoying it profoundly. I thought it was really fun. Then the audition process, I think I speak on behalf of all of us, was terrifying. Quite lengthy. The prospect of having to stand up in front of anyone and sing an ABBA song is pretty daunting, but we got through it in the end.
JEREMY IRVINE (Young Sam): It was quite a long process. I’ve only ever had auditions for things where I just had to act, and then there was singing and dancing auditions as well. Me and Hugh often were going in together and being put into a music recording studio. Behind the glass would be 15 or 20 big important producers. Then you’re having to sing ABBA. When it came to actually doing it, it was Benny Andersson there from ABBA on the piano. You’re singing ABBA to ABBA, which is a completely nerve-wracking experience, but also one for the bucket list.
What was it like playing a younger version of a character that’s already been portrayed by another actor. Are you fans of your counterparts?
IRVINE: I think we can all safely say we were big fans.
SKINNER: Huge fans.
IRVINE: But also, at the same time, we didn’t want to be doing impersonations. We wanted to be taking essences of them, mainly from the characters they built.
SKINNER: Colin [Firth] said something quite helpful. He reminded us we’re playing the characters and not him, Pierce, and Stellan, which psychologically made the whole thing a lot easier.
DYLAN: Stellan [Skarsgård] told us to throw ourselves into it with reckless abandon and to have no inhibitions because that’s what they did in the first film. So that was something we did try and copy from them, which was their spirit they had in the first film.
You each got your own featured musical number. What was filming those like? Any favorite memories?
DYLAN : I had quite a fun and treacherous experience filming the number with Lily [James] on a boat in the middle of the sea. We spent half the time trying not to fall in, which was a massive laugh. It was really lovely because we were genuinely having fun, so we didn’t really have to pretend too much.
SKINNER: “Waterloo” — Ol Parker, the director, and Anthony Van Laast, the choreographer, were basically texting each other trying to top each other with more and more ridiculous ideas of things they could throw in. Like playing a baguette and all sorts of things. The scariest thing about learning that dance routine was arriving at the first dance rehearsal and being taught these moves by professional dancers and having to try to do the moves.
IRVINE: A lot of my dancing had seriously disappeared from the script with each re-write after they saw my dance audition. My dancing is limited in this film. In my song, we have to show the audience why Pierce Brosnan’s character spends 30 years never getting over Meryl [Streep]’s character Donna. My main job in that was to show just how heartbreaking my character and Lily James’ [character] were at their separation.
You are all primarily working with Lily James in your scenes — how is she as a scene partner?
DYLAN: She’s phenomenal. It’s devastating for an actor to find out you’ve got to duet with Lily James because she’s so extraordinary. She’s the definition of a triple threat.
SKINNER: The first thing I filmed was a scene with Lily. She’s just completely brilliant. She’s so spontaneous and alive and present. She tries different things. She’s really exciting to work with. She’s very clever.
IRVINE: We went to the same drama school, Lily and I. She’s a few years before me. We had so much fun because we’d just remember old drama school exercises before doing scenes. We’d like pretend to be different animals between takes and stuff. We had a lot of fun. She’s very, very talented and just fantastic to be on set with.
Josh, did you have to learn how to sail?
DYLAN: That was the idea. I got sent out to Croatia a couple of days before everyone else. I met the guy whose boat was going to be in the film. Supposedly I had to learn how to sail, which was really fun. But with a keen eye, if you look closely you’ll notice I never actually sail the boat when the sails are up. I just steer it and the motor’s going. I loved it. It helped being on the boat and getting used to it … I wanted it to look like I was really familiar with it. So I could jump around on it, and it didn’t look like I was just an actor. I wanted to get down and dirty.
Your characters never meet except for the final credits dance number, so how much did you all get to interact during the process?
SKINNER: We barely left each other’s sight actually. We all lived together in Croatia.
IRVINE: We all lived in an apartment together and shared this lovely pool and a dinner every night with all the cast. We really did hang out all the time on the island. We took over this little island in Croatia, and it did turn into a vacation with all your friends.
DYLAN: Even when we were filming in London, at least three days a week we’d be down at the pub with each other. There’s been a lot of pub time.