Phyllida Llloyd was a multi-award-winning British director, best known for her extravagant opera and theater productions, including "The Virtuoso" (1991) for the Royal Shakespeare Company and "Six Degrees of Separation" (1992) for the Royal Court. She directed "Mamma Mia!" (1999), a musical based on the tunes of the 1970s musical phenomenon, Swedish pop band ABBA, that became a hit in London's West End, Broadway, and eventually worldwide. It seemed there was no better person to bring this particular musical to the big screen so, in 2008, Lloyd made her feature film-directing debut with the movie version of "Mamma Mia!" (2008) starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, among other performers, including newcomer Amanda Seyfried.
Phyllida Christian Lloyd was born on June 17, 1957 in Bristol, England. She spent five years working in BBC Television Drama after graduating from Birmingham University in 1979. Six years after graduating, Lloyd became Trainee Director at the Wolsey Theater in Ipswich, followed by a position at Everyman Theater in Cheltenham as Associate Director, and finally in 1989, she was awarded an Associate Director title at the Bristol Old Vic, where she directed "The Comedy of Errors." Lloyd received two academic honors in 2006: an honorary degree from Bristol University and the title of Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theater from Oxford University. Lloyd made her theatrical debut in 1991 with "The Virtuoso," a little-known play by Thomas Shadwell that received critical praise. Her first commercial success came a year later, with "Six Degrees of Separation" opening at the Royal Court Theater and moving to London's West End.
In 1999, Lloyd joined the creative team behind "Mamma Mia!" a musical about a girl named Sophie who reads her mom's diary and has to figure out who her real father is. The soundtrack to the story was taken from the ABBA songbook, with familiar titles such as "Dancing Queen," "Take A Chance on Me," and, of course, the title song. The musical was the brainchild of three women: creative producer Judy Craymer, writer Catherine Johnson, and director Lloyd. Their collaboration was key to the musical's commercial success, and it was more than a coincidence that the story centered around three very strong women. It won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Musical, and in 2007, became the 18th longest running Broadway musical of all time. Lloyd took directing reigns once again when "Mamma Mia!" opened in Los Angeles in September 2002.
Lloyd's talent with theater caught the eye of Nicholas Paine, who ran Opera North. The director soon found herself directing opera, with highly successful productions of "La Boheme," Cherubini's "Medea," and "Gloriana." The latter was made into a 2000 television feature in the UK, and won a Performing Arts Emmy Award that same year. She returned to theater in 2003 with the production of John Webster's play "The Duchess of Malfi" at the Royal National Theater in London. Lloyd also made great strides with her work outside of the stage. In 2006, Britain's The Independent newspaper named the director one of the "100 most influential gay and lesbian people" - a list that included the country's most remarkable artists and activists such as Ian McKellen, Elton John and fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
In 2007, Lloyd directed a reading of Sylvia Plath's "Three Women" as part of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium in Oxford. A few months later, she shot the big screen adaptation of "Mamma Mia!" in London and Greece, with an impressive cast that included Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and up-and-coming star Amanda Seyfried in the role of Sophie. A fun, life-affirming musical, the film debuted smack dab in the middle of a particularly competitive summer movie season, which included the long-awaited fourth installment of "Indiana Jones" and the Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight."