Meet the 'Mamma Mia!' Men and Bride-to-be

The "Mamma Mia!" spotlight has been mainly on Meryl Streep, who gets to put her singing skills to good use on ABBA's "Dancing Queen" when the film opens Friday. But the acting queen also has a game supporting cast. USA TODAY talks with some of the super troupe.

Amanda Seyfried

How you know her: As airhead Karen ("It's like I have ESPN or something. My breasts can always tell when it's going to rain.") in the 2004 high school comedy "Mean Girls".

Her "Mamma" role: Young bride-to-be Sophie. "I was playing myself at 17 in "Mean Girls", and I was also playing myself at 20 in this."

Previous music experience: "I took singing and dancing lessons for six years. I kind of put it away in my pocket as a hobby. I never really imagined that I would be a part of a movie musical, because they are few and far between."

The most difficult part of"Mamma Mia!": The Greek dance step during Voulez-Vous. "We all had a tough time. Pierce (Brosnan, who is one of her three possible fathers) kept tripping over himself. Then I noticed he had such a good time messing up."

Favorite ABBA song:" Mamma Mia!" "My heart explodes when I hear it."

Next: "Jennifer's Body", a 2009 horror comedy written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody ("Juno"); a new season of HBO's "Big Love"

Pierce Brosnan

How you know him: As the fifth official James Bond in four films from 1995 to 2002.

His "Mamma" role: Sam, a suave architect. "He is dealing with being a single father in the hustle and bustle of New York City. He had a marriage he should never have entered into."

Previous music experience: Tackled Irish ballads in the 2002 custody drama "Evelyn."

Response to criticism of his "Mamma" crooning: "I don't care what they say, that 'he's flat' or whatever. I will take it all. I am just happy to be part of it."

Brotherly bonding with Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard: "The morning when we were going up to the studios to record the songs was daunting. The night before was long and dark. But then I took sanctuary in the faces of Colin and Stellan, who looked like they had just been hit by a Mack truck."

On wearing his ABBA-style spandex jumpsuit: "You think, 'OK, suck it in a bit. Oh, I look good. I look like Elvis. Oh, dear, I wish I asked for a bigger buckle.' "

Favorite ABBA song: "'The Winner Takes It All', because of this now. Meryl let's me have it right between the eyes."

Next: Coming next year are "The Greatest" with Susan Sarandon, about the loss of a child; "The Thomas Crown Affair 2", directed by Paul Verhoeven; "The Ghost" with Tilda Swinton and Kim Cattrall, directed by Roman Polanski.

Christine Baranski

How you know her: In her Emmy-winning stretch as the gin-soaked, acid-tongued Maryann on TV's "Cybill".

Her "Mamma" role: Thrice-divorced, surgically enhanced boy-bait Tanya, who has echoes of Maryann. "She isn't as bitter and drunk. She's softer."

Previous music experience: On stage in Nick and Nora, an L.A. revival of "Promises"," Promises" with Martin Short, productions of "Sweeney Todd" and "Mame". On-screen as sob-sister reporter Mary Sunshine in 2002's "Chicago".

On the difficulty of singing ABBA hits: "I tended to take the top line in songs like "Chiquitita" and "Dancing Queen". So I was glad I have been doing musicals for the last few years. It was like training. I loved getting into pop songs, and I absolutely loved performing "Does Your Mother Know". I was channeling Pat Benatar."

On being the film's cougar (aka sexy older woman): "My daughter finally said two days ago, 'You're the cougar in this.' I said, 'Some of the press has been saying that. I don't know.' She said, 'Mom, being a cougar is a cool thing.' I am delighted to be a cougar as long as I possibly can be."

About Tanya's youthful paramour (British actor Philip Michael): "He is a delightful guy. I think he's a very serious practicing Christian. He's also a karate champ. The scene I do with him on the beach is one of the highlights of my career."

Favorite ABBA song: "Dancing Queen". "Because it's the ultimate in girl power."

Current project: Plays a peevish French housekeeper in the Tony-winning Broadway farce "Boeing-Boeing".

Colin Firth

How you know him: As Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries of "Pride and Prejudice", and as another Mr. Darcy in the "Bridget Jones" movies.

His "Mamma" role: Once known as "Harry Headbanger," now a stuffy British banker. "Harry is the one has languished in a suit and tie and a boring job for many years, having once had hopes of being a free spirit."

Previous music experience: Basically none, save for the shower.

On playing guitar during "Our Last Summer": "It's a hard thing to cheat. I would have rather just not bother with the guitar, otherwise."

On his dance moves: "I have never felt there was any hope for me with freestyle. There is no style and it's never free. I always did much better with things that are a bit more formal. With disco dancing, I'm hopeless. But it didn't matter that much. They didn't cast Swayze, Travolta and Kevin Bacon."

Dressing up in his disco outfit and rocker gear: "They were both embarrassing, but — shamelessly —actors are great, big mincing queens. It doesn't matter if you spend your life doing gangster movies. Part of you did this because we all just want to dress up and put makeup on. I love the idea of doing spandex. But it proved to be physically uncomfortable in ways you don't want to hear."

Favorite ABBA song: "It tends to be the one you're listening to. We have years and years of associations with the songs. I actually was punched in a discotheque with "Dancing Queen" playing in the background. That's just one of the associations."

Next: "The Accidental Husband" with Uma Thurman; Easy Virtue, based on a Noel Coward play; "Genova", directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Julie Walters

How you know her: As Mrs. Weasley in the "Harry Potter" series.

Her "Mamma" role: Rosie, a cookbook author. "Rosie is down-to-earth. She is loyal, loud and funny, an extrovert who loves life. She missed the boat a bit with men."

Previous music experience: Early on, she did a cabaret act in Liverpool pubs and TV variety shows. Appeared in 1991's "Stepping Out" as Liza Minnelli's testy tap-dance student, and taught ballet in 2000's "Billy Elliot".

Why she did "Mamma Mia!": "An agent rang me up and asked, 'Would you like to be in "Mamma Mia!?"' I said, 'I can't do the "West End".' He said, 'No, the film. You play Meryl Streep's best friend.' I said, 'Yes, absolutely, I want to be Meryl's friend. But do I get any love scenes with Pierce Brosnan?' "

On meeting Streep: "I was completely shy. She is such an icon. But she is a proper actor, not all starry or haughty. She is phenomenally energetic and creative, and we had good fun in Greece."

Her romantic duet, "Take a Chance on Me", with Stellan Skarsgard: "We never stood still while shooting that song. It was everywhere, on a table, the roof, in water. It took five days."

Favorite ABBA song: A tossup between "Voulez-Vous" and "Slipping Through My Fingers".

Next: Working on her memoir, due in October.

Stellan Skarsgard

How you know him: Best known as barnacled Bootstrap Bill in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series.

His "Mamma" role: Bill, a Swedish adventurer. "He travels the world and survives by writing about what he is doing. He is definitely a man with an enormous appetite for life, women, drink and fun."

Previous music experience. None. "I was supposed to have a singing part in "Dancer in the Dark", but I only had one day in a little role."

Why he signed on for a musical: "It was so far from anything I had done before, that I had to do it. Normally I am a very measured actor. I knew I had to let go in a different way. Once we were done with most of the singing and dancing in London and came to Greece, it was almost like a vacation. The girls were carrying it. We were the bimbos."

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."

About those costumes: "It was very clever of the women behind this production that they take maybe the No. 1 action hero in the world, the No. 1 heaving-bosom hero and an independent weird film hero and put them in high heels."

Favorite ABBA song: "It varies. I've liked for a while "Lay All Your Love on Me". There's something funky-weird about it."

Next: Shooting "Angels & Demons" with "Mamma Mia!" executive producer Tom Hanks. Also, "I did a comedy with Amanda called "Boogie Woogie", about the art scene in London. She is my mistress, so I hope she wasn't my daughter in this."