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Don't call Lily James an English rose - Mamma Mia! star insists she's a thorn

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Lily James is not, she insisted, an English rose. ‘I’d rather be an English thorn!’ she declared.

She poured herself a cup of tea in a suite at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall, a stone’s throw from the Embankment, and noted that she was lumbered with the English rose moniker as soon as she began playing Lady Rose in Downton Abbey. Taking the title role in Disney’s Cinderella did nothing to dispel the image.

‘That’s not necessarily how I saw myself. I like English thorn better,’ she said, smiling.

Well, Lily’s so full of moxie and ebullience in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, the deliciously enjoyable sequel to 2008’s Mamma Mia!, she might wind up being billed as the English bouquet (OK, I tried!).

The film is happiness in a tin, and is just what the country needs to distract us from bickering over Brexit, and the fact that football’s not coming home after all.

In the picture, which opens here on July 20, Ms James plays the carefree, university graduate version of Donna, the spirited American who raised daughter Sophie by herself on a Greek island, without being defined by a man.

Sophie’s three potential dads — played in both films by Colin Firth (Harry), Pierce Brosnan (Sam) and Stellan Skarsgard (Bill) — famously turned up at Sophie’s wedding.

In the new picture, thanks to flashbacks and flashforwards, we see how the young Donna was first, well, let’s say introduced, to the three chaps. The younger Harry, Sam and Bill are played by Hugh Skinner, Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) and Josh Dylan (a star in the making), respectively.

James, meanwhile, is barely off the screen — she performs in ten numbers and when she’s not singing and dancing, she’s having international relations with Harry, Sam and Bill. Not all at once, I hasten to add.

James, 29, admires Donna’s stamina. ‘I felt one of the most important things was never to apologise for her behaviour,’ she told me. She smoothed down her red Emelia Wickstead dress, leaned forward and said: ‘She embraces her sexuality, and she’s in control of all the choices she makes.’

James does concede that when Donna becomes pregnant, the child — Sophie — does ‘define her entire life’. But ‘even in that she makes the choice to do it on her own, and to be........

© Mail Online