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Why Meryl Streep Didn’t Fully Return for Mamma Mia 2

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Meryl Streep, a Hollywood heavy hitter, has the resume to pick and choose her roles, and she is known for liking to take on fresh and challenging parts. That’s likely why the part of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia spoke to her, as playing a mother with a complicated past who occasionally broke out in song isn’t something that comes around every day. However, sequels are more complicated (as in the case of Downton Abbey: A New Era) because Streep isn’t as passionate about them. So, let’s dive into why Streep didn’t fully return in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.


The widespread success of the original Mamma Mia! begged for a sequel, but Streep and many of the other original cast members were initially uninterested. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again director Ol Parker explained, saying, “There was always a massive desire for a sequel. The studio couldn’t have wanted it more, given how much money the original made. But immediately, there was just a struggle. Not every story needs another chapter. So they couldn’t really find a proper version that actually made dramatic sense.”

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Why Wasn’t Meryl Streep In Mamma Mia 2?

Streep may not have been interested in starring in Mamma Mia 2, but writer Richard Curtis’ daughter gave him the idea to write a movie woven with the threads of a prequel. By having Donna die between the end of the first movie and the start of the second, they could tell more of Donna’s story via flashbacks. And Curtis felt the movie flowed best that way anyway, describing it as “the most meaningful and emotional and impactful way to tell that story.”

Killing Streep’s character off also allowed the creators to bring her a role of just one minor scene playing a ghost and singing just a couple of songs. And because of the prequel flashbacks, the rest of Donna’s presence in the movie was played by Pam & Tommy‘s Lily James, who portrayed a younger version of the character. Thankfully, Streep was intrigued by the concept and agreed to do the film.

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Meryl Streep Was Still Involved In Mamma Mia 2

“I think she felt that she liked the idea of leaving this to the younger ones, and she wanted to be involved, but she wasn’t gonna take on such a big role,” the franchise’s creator, Judy Craymer, said. “So I think that helped explore the emotional heft of what director Ol Parker wrote in the fact that it’s a story of life and marriage and loss and love.”

And once Streep was onboard, the rest of the original cast trickled back in. Streep was the face of Mamma Mia! when the original movie came out in 2008, but developing a follow-up that would both do justice to the first story and entice their original leading lady back took the creators a decade, leading to complications. However, Streep took the leap and made Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again happen even without putting in a lot of screen time.

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