Thursday, 7 March 2013

Let's put the show on here

It's a strange feeling to bump into James Bond and Mr Darcy, you know, the one from Pride and Prejudice. And also to see the French Lieutenant's Woman off in the middle distance.

Except, of course, that's not who they were. They were none other than Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep who were on the Greek island where I now live, Skopelos, for some of the filming of the hit musical, Mamma Mia. That was back in 2007 and although I didn't live here then, I was on holiday just at the time part of the film were being shot here.

It was quite exciting to see real Hollywood stars out and about enjoying themselves in tavernas and cafés. In fact, there is a surprising number of Skopelos tavernas displaying photographs of the owner proudly standing next to Pierce Brosnan, after all it's not everyday that 007 pops in for meatballs and a salad.

From the Mamma Mia cast I also saw the other "dad", the girl and the boy. I apologise for not naming them, but anyone with even just a cursory knowledge of the film should know who I mean, so keep up. Another time I saw the bearded one from Abba (is it Benny?) getting off an utterly beautiful yacht. Let's face it, were it not for Benny and the other one, Bjorn, no part of the Mamma Mia phenomenon would have transpired.

And what a phenomenon it has been. Since 1999, 42 million people have seen the stage show which has grossed $2 billion. Similarly gazillions of people have have paid up to see the film, which was released in 2008.

So where does that leave us? Skopelos has a small place in film history for being one of the locations for the very popular film Mamma Mia, but these days people like to talk of legacy, so what, if anything, was the legacy for this small island?

Well during the summer, there is a constant stream of visitors to the beautiful Agios Ioannis monastery which sits on top of a rocky outcrop and which was where "the wedding" took place.

Agios Ioannis: not for vertigo sufferers.
Many inquiries are received about the possibility of getting married there, but you can't and even true love might balk at the prospect of climbing the precipitous steps to the church only to have to descend them again. No bridal car could ever get to that church.

You have been warned, the steps are steep.
Apart from that an enterprising taverna owner secured the archway to "Donna Maria's" hotel from the film and it now graces the entrance to his taverna. Power put in at a beach for filming purposes enabled the opening of a beach bar, which might or might not be a plus. And then you get to the rather sad Mamma Mia Café, a bar and hotel used as a production office by the film team, but which has barely been occupied for a good few years and is available to rent.

As legacies go, I can't help feeling Skopelos could have done better. The impact of Mamma Mia on this small Greek island was nowhere near as bad as one curmudgeonly British newspaper claimed, but you are still left wondering if it couldn't have been a whole lot better. Despite all this, for me the real star of the film is and always has been this beautiful island and fame has not turned her head.

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