Sex and the City - Sarah Jessica Parker interview
Summer film special
Carrie would not be impressed. She may be decked out in stylish Versace threads, and clutching a Fendi bag, but Sarah Jessica Parker is struggling to remember who designed her shoes. ‘Um, I can’t pronounce the name correctly . . .’
She might not have every designer label tripping off her tongue (incidentally, the shoes were Brian Atwood) but for the thousands who will don their shiniest Manolo Blahniks for the film release of Sex and the City next week, Parker will forever be Carrie Bradshaw, even if the reality is somewhat easier on the cocktails and lighter on the Jimmy Choos.
When Sex and the City strutted into our collective consciousness in 1997, unashamedly gyrating between pre-feminist romanticism and post-feminist brash, few anticipated the effect it would have, least of all its star (and producer), Parker. Running for eight seasons, the show was celebrated as a cultural (and sexual) revolution for the small screen, capturing as it did the highs, lows and rapacious libidos of its Manhattan quartet: Carrie (played by Parker), the shoe lover and sex columnist; Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), the no-nonsense lawyer; Charlotte (Kirsten Davis), the high-fashioned gallery manager, and PR agent and resident sexpot Samantha (Kim Cattrall). ‘When the show first aired strangers would be very frank and candid and just tell me very personal and intimate details of their lives,’ remembers Parker. ‘It was very surprising, but I understood why. The show was connecting with an audience; this was the first time there was that voice and women were responding.’
Born in the small town of Nelsonville, Ohio, and one of eight siblings, Parker admits her role as fashion icon and sexual liberator has, at times, been overwhelming, though her subsequent turns as a fashion and perfume designer, suggest the Choo does occasionally fit.
It also perhaps explains why the show’s style guru – and friend to Parker – Patricia Field is back at the style helm for SATC’s big screen close-up. Pictures of Field’s creations: the high shoulder pads, the giant corsages, the crazy clashes of colours and cuts were captured by the world’s media during filming last year, and Parker admits to the odd midnight flit to Field’s trailer to try on her latest inventions.
‘Fashion was part of the story,’ says Parker. ‘The hits are enormous and the misses are comical. I’ve never said “no” to Pat. Even if something looks absurd to me, nothing is funnier than an absurd outfit at three or four in the morning after a 14-hour day on the set.’
Which is not to say that the film will be all sass and no substance. At the heart of the TV show was the friendship of four women, who waltzed off the small screen in 2004, better-loved, sexed and dressed then when they arrived. Taking their stories on was always going to be a challenge.
Reports suggest the final cut has been a lengthy work in progress, not just to marry the expectations of the cast and crew but also to avoid disappointing the show’s loyal fan base, a pressure not lost on Parker. Reflecting on what series writer and director Michael Patrick King has created for SATC’s big screen debut, Parker says: ‘Michael Patrick has done a beautiful job. He wrote a wonderful story and he really gave me the part of a lifetime.’
And while the plot of the film has been kept tightly under wraps, with stories of dream sequences leaked to the press and gag orders on the cast and crew, the actress admits that life had to, inevitably, move on.
‘It doesn’t pick up right when the series left off, which means, in terms of Carrie’s life, there is much more at stake,’ hints Parker, following suggestions that the crux of the movie will lie with the original show’s greatest love affair, that of her and Big (played by Chris Noth) and the ‘will-they-won’t they’ of their nuptials. Parker remains resolutely tight lipped on the outcome. ‘Something major happens that fundamentally changes who she is. She’s a new person in a lot of ways in this movie, because she finds herself at the crucible for the first time.’
Growing up and settling down wasn’t such a stretch for Parker, who made her screen debut at the tender age of eight. Married to fellow actor Matthew Broderick and mother to son Jamie, the 43-year old admits that she is more likely to be spotted hanging out in the local playpark than heading to New York’s latest hot spot.
She says, ‘My son comes first. If he’s not content, then everything else doesn’t have the same meaning. Everything works if he’s all right.’
Whether fans love or hate her upcoming big screen outing, there is already talk of a sequel, with Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall reportedly showing interest. Can Parker really be ready to hang up her Jimmy Choos for good? ‘It would be putting the cart before the horse to talk about another,’ she smiles. ‘The expectations are very clear to us, but you can’t write for expectations. You just have to write a great story and I think that’s what [Michael Patrick King] did.’
Sex and the City is out on Wed 28 May.