There are no Wookies in the “Sex and the City” movie—no Vulcans with pointy ears or hobbits with oversize feet or aging archaeologists fond of bullwhips and fedoras. Heck, there probably isn’t a single computer-generated special effect in it, although it’s a safe bet its overwhelmingly female target audience will be oohing and aahing through it anyway.
Considering the mania that has surrounded the movie since it began filming in Manhattan last year with as much secrecy as anyone can muster in the streets of New York, you’d think “Sex and the City,” which opens Friday, was directed by George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Instead, the movie was written and directed by Michael Patrick King, who served the same duties for six seasons during “Sex and the City’s” run as an HBO series.
Sex and the City
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Jennifer Hudson
(New Line Cinema; US theatrical: 30 May 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 30 May 2008 (General release); 2008)
As pretty much every woman in the civilized world knows by now (along with many of their boyfriends, and legions of gay men), the show was inspired by Candace Bushnell’s newspaper columns about single women looking for love in the Big Apple and centered on four single friends: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Bushnell’s alter-ego, a columnist whose on-again, off-again affair with the jet-setting Mr. Big (Chris Noth) gave the show its narrative spine; Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), a tightly wound lawyer; Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), a prim and proper WASP from a wealthy family, and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), a high-powered publicist whose connections were outdone only by her libido.
It was the contrast of the four women’s personalities—along with the show’s frank approach to sexuality and its often uproarious humor—that connected so strongly with audiences, which grew in number even after the series ended its 94-episode, seven-year run via syndication on TBS and DVD sales.
“The four protagonists of `Sex and the City’ are very different, but at some point in our lives most women have either been one of those characters or aspired to be like them,” says Yvonne McCormack Lyons, founder and director of the Miami Women’s International Film Festival. “They represent things that we can relate to. Even if we’re not the Kim Cattrall character, we see that it’s OK to be a woman and enjoy your sexuality and be empowered by it instead of embarrassed. The show breaks down the traditional stereotypes that say all women have to be a certain way.”
When the series ended, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha all attained happy endings of their own. But if the central theme of the show was women’s search for love and a meaningful relationship during their 30s (and early 40s), the movie asks the question “What now?” when you’ve finally found what you were looking for and have hit your 40s (and early 50s).
As the trailers have revealed, the film centers on the impending nuptials of Carrie and Mr. Big, who have been living together for several years now. Meanwhile, Miranda discovers her husband Steve (David Eigenberg) may have cheated, Samantha develops a crush on a neighbor, and Charlotte delves into the joys of motherhood.
During a recent press day in Manhattan, The Miami Herald met with Parker, Cattrall, Davis, Nixon, Noth and director King to talk about the $65-million film, why it took so long to get made, the enduring appeal of the show and all those pesky rumors about the plot, which has been kept top secret.
Herald: When the show ended four years ago, buzz about a movie spin-off sprang up immediately, but then it fell through. Were you worried that too much time had elapsed?
King: I’m so happy we’re making it now, because it’s so much more of an event. I got to mine it in my imagination as to where the girls would be. The first script (written after the show ended) took a different approach.
Herald: How was it different?
King: The wedding was in both ideas, because I knew the big untold story was whether Carrie and Big would ever get married. But it is massively different in this incarnation.
It’s more grown up, more complicated and a little bit more elegant. It starts in a different place, the idea that someone could be perfectly happy in an undefined relationship after four years. That’s much better than having to show Big move to New York.
Parker: It would be my nature to think that if we had made this movie next year, I would be saying five years was the exact right amount of time. But there is something fortuitous about landing at this time and having the opportunity to tell this story. Because it wasn’t the story we were going to tell four years ago, and that was a great story. This is a beautiful, magnificent screenplay that talks about women at the precipice of a certain point in their lives.
Herald: How did the project come back to life after it seemed the movie would never get made?
Parker: In April 2006, I picked up the phone and called my agent and said, “I really think we should revisit this idea.” It took a long time for us to get to a place where we could include Michael Patrick, because to ask him to revisit would be a little reckless of me unless I knew there was a chance. I knew he would go and lock himself away and write a script. So I didn’t want to pursue it with him until I knew it could be a reality. But between that day and today, this movie has died a thousand deaths with financiers falling through. But here we are. We did it. It feels like a dream.
Herald: Kim, you were the last holdout when the idea of a movie first came up. Why were you reluctant?
Cattrall: That was a particularly tough time, because the show was coming to an end, and it had been the best working experience for all of us. I was going through a divorce in a very public way, and it became fodder for headlines and speculation. It was a lot for me to deal with, and then shortly after that my dad was diagnosed with dementia. So `04 was a tough, tough year. I needed a timeout. I needed to take care of my real family as opposed to my “Sex and the City” family. And I think we were all tired, too. It had been an amazing seven years of our lives, but when we weren’t doing the show, we were promoting the show. That’s what episodic television demands, but that’s tough on families and tough on marriages.
When I got the call a year and a half ago from HBO saying we have a script now, New Line is going to do it, we have a great budget and the timing is right, I read the script and I was just thrilled. It felt like a fairy tale. The show ended on such a high note artistically, and coming back after all those years felt right.
Herald: Why was there such a push to keep the plot top secret?
Davis: It’s hard to remember at this point which parts we can and cannot discuss. We’re just now getting to talk to other humans who have seen it, which is great. But I do feel that the movie is still somewhat of a surprise. We want to make sure that if people get into their car and drive to the theater and pay, there’s still some surprise left.
Herald: You mean like the scene where Charlotte ...
Davis: I cannot talk about that funny scene! Let’s just say some unexpected things happen to Charlotte, good and bad. When I read this script, I was concerned and a little shocked, because Michael didn’t tell me about that scene when he told me about my story arc. And I said “Michael, this had better be funny, or I’m going to be really, really upset with you.” But he said that it would be funny and I shouldn’t worry, and it’s relatable and human, and unexpected bad things happen to people all the time and that people would think it was funny and good. And I said OK.
Nixon: We were really worried about it, particularly when they were broadcasting dialogue on certain shows here and in England. It’s also hard, because when Carrie’s walking around in a wedding dress in the street, what are you going to say? But I think we’ve done a pretty good job thus far.
Noth: Journalists followed us everywhere while we were filming. It was insane. They were trying to figure out every nuance of what we were doing and what it meant. That’s why I would walk by them and slip them a mickey. I’d say things like “God, I can’t take another funeral.” Or “When she wakes up from that dream, it’s really going to surprise people.” It was so much fun.
Herald: There were rumors that Mr. Big dies and that Charlotte dies in childbirth. And that Carrie’s wedding turns out to be a dream.
Davis: Those rumors are interesting. I’ve just been telling everyone I don’t die in the movie. I just think that’s weird. Why would we get back together and then kill one of us off? We’re a romantic comedy. Michael is not that sadistic. Well, he’s a little bit.
King: People wanted it to be more than cocktails and jokes. People thought “If you’re coming back, come back with a big story.” But somehow this rumor started that somebody died in the movie. There’s a great tragedy in the movie, but it’s not a literal death.
Herald: I recently described the sex in the show as “raunchy” in a story, and a reader e-mailed me and called me a prude. But I always thought part of the show’s appeal was that it was kind of raunchy. And so is the movie.
King: It’s frank and graphic and comic. When you wrote raunchy, you were probably thinking fun. The thing about “Sex and the City” is that yes, there was sex, but it wasn’t dark and black. It was pink and bubbly. If you could have sex after an episode, then you were pretty good, because ours was about an uncharted sexual landscape of talking about sex in an uncensored way. The movie is R-rated for a reason. One of the first discussions they had at New Line was would people trust a PG “Sex and the City”? And the answer was no.
Herald: All the actresses appear nude in the film except Sarah. How come?
Parker: I got a no-nudity clause. What can I tell you? It’s been there since I was 8!
Cattrall: For me to play Samantha, that’s an area I would have to be particularly fearless in (laughs).
Herald: Even though the primary audience for “Sex and the City” is female, men watch the show, too. What do you think is the appeal of such a girly show to men?
Parker: From what I have gleaned, it’s something they can do with a girlfriend or a wife, something they can feign they didn’t like at first, they were pulled kicking and screaming to the TV on Sunday nights.
King: Guys get from the series that they’re not to fault. I’ve always thought men are the great unsung heroes of the series. Both men and women have challenging times with relationships: It’s just that women talk about them more.
Herald: Is the studio expecting men to materialize at the theater?
King: I think a lot of guys are going to see it. Because if you’re in a relationship with a woman and you take her to this movie, she will be very happy. And open. And that will fuel things!
Noth: We’re in a woman’s world, man; let’s face it. Or at least I am on this show. But we reflect their needs and the failing aspects of their relationships. So in that sense I don’t think it’s a chick flick or a girl movie, because without us, they cannot b——about us.
Herald: Even though the movie provides a sense of definitive closure, there’s always room for another one. Is a sequel a possibility?
Nixon: I think it’s a great way to end it. But if Michael Patrick has another movie to write, I’d be delighted to be in it.
King: Whenever I’m having good sex, I don’t really like to think about if there’s going to be more sex. So ask me again later! (laughs)