Meryl Streep has written only one fan letter in her life, but it landed her what she calls her "dream role". The Oscar-winning actress was moved to write to the cast of the musical Mamma Mia! shortly after it opened on Broadway to thank them for bringing joy to New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
She had taken her 10-year-old daughter and some of her friends to the new show in 2001 to take their minds off the tragedy. "We left floating on air," she recalls. "We were so elated. It couldn't have been a better tonic for the city and I wrote the cast a note thanking them for the music and what they gave us because it was something that meant a lot at that point. It was a gift not just to my little girl and her dispirited friends but it was a gift to the whole city.
"I never imagined the cast would make copies of the letter and send it to England and everybody would have it on their refrigerators, which I was told much later is what happened."
Her note was not forgotten, and seven years later director Phyllida Lloyd, producer Judy Cramer and writer Catherine Johnson contacted her when they were casting the movie version of the show and asked her to portray Donna, the owner of a Greek island hotel who is confronted by three former lovers on the eve of her daughter's wedding.
"I just about died," says Streep. "I kept saying, 'Are you sure you want me, because I'm not the likeliest choice, you know.' But I was thrilled because I love the music and it meant a lot to me."