And truth be told, even as they were filming those last scenes in Paris, Parker and her collaborator, writer-director Michael Patrick King, were kicking around a movie concept. King’s original pitch sounds like a palate cleanser intended to follow the hype surrounding the series finale—it was a light, summery, Bob Hope–style road movie, with the girls following separate paths. “Then the deals weren’t happening,” King tells me. “And the money people didn’t believe in it.”
Parker’s co-star Kim Cattrall reportedly scuttled the project, wanting more money and creative control. “If I had thought it was any of my business at the time,” Parker tells me carefully, “what I would have said is, ‘Isn’t it okay for Kim to think that the money wasn’t right?’” (She also drily notes, “Perhaps she was some kind of emotional psychic, because this way we made a better movie.”)
Cattrall herself sounds somewhat humbled when I speak to her, less the sassy promoter of sex manuals and more the actress who recently turned 50. “Having this fantastic character that I love and enjoy playing, it has a dark side,” she says as cabs honk in the background. “Not just because people don’t think of you for anything else. But people get out of touch with you as a person—and you can get out of touch with you as well.” The show’s final season was a painful one: She’d lost her job, her marriage was falling apart, and her father was diagnosed with dementia. Though she’s clearly still rankled by aspects of the series’ aftermath (“Oh God, you’re going to make me cry,” she says when I complain how little Sam shows up in the edited reruns), she sounds guardedly thrilled, if there is such a thing, to be back to “this phenomenon.”
In any case, by 2006, when Parker revived the film, Cattrall cut a deal. In the interim, Parker had made her own gestures toward breaking away from her iconic character, releasing a few critical misfires like The Family Stone and Failure to Launch (though the latter was a hit). But she’d also begun to pursue a parallel career, monetizing her Carrie-based status as a fashion icon with ads for the Gap (from which she was peremptorily dumped for Joss Stone) and producing the fragrances Lovely and Covet and the inexpensive clothes line Bitten. Meanwhile, in the ensuing years, the Sex and the City phenomenon had only grown, with those bubble-gum-pink DVD sets bringing in both international viewers and the “cocoa time” women (in King’s phrase) who found the bowdlerized reruns comfort fare. This time, the money people could believe.
And Parker had an intuition that time was running out: “It had this shelf life.” The resulting film, which opens May 30, is no summery lark. Instead, it has a surprisingly serious tone, exploring questions of forgiveness in long-term relationships. (Reader, I cried.) The trademark elements are all there—rat-a-tat dialogue, sex scenes, and unsettlingly orgasmic excitement upon access to designer goods—but the mood is bittersweet. When the story begins, Carrie and Big have been together for ten years, and the melodrama of their off-and-on dynamic has faded. “She would probably long for that earlier type of heartbreak versus what she experiences this time around,” Parker says, dishing cryptic tidbits that are sure to be ruined when the movie gets spoiled online. “The disappointment and the loss is so painful because they’re grown-ups now, and it just changes, as we all know.”
Of course, for any longtime fan of the series—and I am one—the movie also has a significant level of terror attached to it. The series consisted of arch, neatly structured half-hours. If it didn’t succeed, a two-hour film could feel more like Godzilla in heels, stomping cluelessly back into the meatpacking district. My boss summarized his response to the trailer as: “This is the worst idea ever” and “God, I can’t wait to see this.” And there is the question of whether these characters can age without seeming ridiculous, whether the film’s Manhattan will seem dated in this recessionary age, whether it’s all so very 2004.
Michael Patrick King has an answer for that question. “If you want to see them at 38, doing a variety of come jokes, it’s available on DVD.”
"I don’t know if you do this with your husband,” Parker says. “But say one of us is walking down the street, I’ll call him and say, ‘You know, the laundromat is closed!’ And he’ll say, ‘What?’ I’ll be like, ‘The laundromat at 11th and West 4th Street is closed!’ ”
Parker and Broderick keep a running count of these changes, a mutual mourning for the transformation of their neighborhood into a luxe, tree-lined shopping mall. She knows this sounds absurd coming from her, that people blame Sex and the City for the ruination of the West Village; even Broderick says, “That’s your fault!” when he sees a thong poking up from low-slung jeans, and her close friend John Benjamin Hickey, an actor, longs for the days before “those girls on buses.” Parker clarifies that she doesn’t want to sound like Madonna bemoaning what’s happened to New York: It’s not that there’s no “creative energy” in the air, it’s simply been priced out of this particular borough.