After years of living and documenting her life as a single gal in New York City, Carrie Bradshaw finds herself living in a life after the fairytale ending. Enter ”Sex & the City 2”. With Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha living their ‘grown up’ lives, they begin to learn that it isn’t all it’s cracked up be. So, when Samantha is offered an all expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi for her and her three besties, they jump at the chance. But the holiday too, isn’t the magical escape it first appears to be.
Is it the fashion, the sex, or the city that drives women’s insatiable thirst for the ”Sex & the City” franchise (the first ”Sex & the City” film raked in well over US$400 million)? It could be quite possibly a combination of all of those elements, which is why taking the city out of the equation for the second film may seem like a risky decision. How would fans feel about the recipe of (conservative) fashion, (forbidden) sex and a desert? And just what was filming such an extravagant film in an environment like Morocco like? Moviehole’s Tim Johnson got the answers direct from the girls themselves; Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon; plus Chris Noth and writer/director/producer Michael Patrick King at the worldwide press day held at the exclusive New York City department store, Bergdorf Goodman.
After 94 successful television episodes and a box office hit, was the team apprehensive going in to the second movie?
SJP: It was as always overwhelming to get to day one. We thought it couldn’t be done. We had as usual, typically wonderful obstacles that were thrown in our path, but it was thrilling to try to beat them down. Day one was incredibly exciting, but I think the greatest part of the experience for me was the almost two months we spent in Morocco where we were in a completely, wonderfully, foreign, thrilling, exotic, stimulating, inspiring cinematic environment. And I got to live with this cast, which I’ve never had an opportunity to do before and it became probably, the great professional experience of my life. It was an absolutely remarkable time and challenging and thrilling and I’m so grateful that that’s where we ended up being and this is the group that I ended up being with.
MPK: For me the franchise is thrilling because every time I sit down to think what the next chapter is, it has to be a new chapter. So for me to come back and know that I can write something new, and know fully as truthfully as I can say it, that I know whatever I write for any of these amazing actors, it will be done beyond what I imagine. So for me, I feel absolutely no pressure about how we’ll get there, I just know that we want the audience to have a good time. And from then on, it’s just nuts and bolts, and sometimes magic.
KC: It was hot, it was dusty, and I was drunk most of the time.
KD: I have to say that she’s kidding, because she wasn’t. And it was hot, but she was not drunk at all, at all, at all, ever!
SJP: We watered down the dust!
MPK: You are a very talented drunk, I might say! All the lines, perfect.
The film is called ”Sex & the City 2”; did you have concerns filming in Morocco, and portraying Arab women?
MPK: I spent two very exciting and glamorous trips in (the) Dubai/Abu Dhabi region. I went, like when we went to Paris, I went first. I knew a story was in my head and when we did the finale and we went to Paris, I went to Paris for two weeks and all the particulars, all the specifics that happened to Carrie in Paris are based on things that I actually experienced there. And it’s the exact same mirror of what happened to me in Paris, the colors, the majesty, the currency, the amazing world city and all that infused what I wrote. It was not the same plot line, because that’s writing and it’s fiction, and it’s comic and it’s dramatic and it’s a blockbuster sequel; but the reality of Abu Dhabi is in the basis of the movie and the imagination of a movie is on top of it.
SJP: And for us, I mean … it was unique because we weren’t supposed to know anything about these women prior to having this opportunity to observe them. And because we were in Morocco versus Abu Dhabi or Dubai it’s a different culture, granted it’s a Muslim culture, but it’s obviously different. For Carrie, it’s just the perfect lens through which to ask the question that she is pondering at the start of this movie, which is about tradition and do we define it and how do we redefine it and how do other women define it in relationships that they are willfully, willingly, wanting to be in? And conventional institutions and I think it was just an absolute privilege to be there and to be among all sorts of women and I think that’s how Carrie feels at the end of the movie is that this was an incredibly enlightening and unique experience.
Kim, what is it like to come back to Samantha after a couple of years away from the character?
KC: It means everything to me, I love Samantha, I love playing her, she’s such a free character, no judgment, she has this wonderful family, she’s the one that’s single so the girlfriends are her family, they are her bloodline. I’m single at the moment, at sometimes you get very lonely being single and sometimes it’s tough and it’s great to have, I’m so fortunate that I have girlfriends in my life that I can call, like these characters do. And they get you through the rough times and you also have some amazing, fun times. So, I love to play different characters, you know, that’s the great thing about being an actor, you get to pretend and depart from yourself, but Samantha after 14 years, God, it’s a second skin that you just put on. But even having said that, there really is still challenging things that Michael is still writing for all of us. And breaking envelopes and this thing of having his finger specifically on the pulse of what people are just about to talk about. In my case, menopause. Because most people just called it the ‘change’. It didn’t even have a name, so this is quite, there’s that fun thing about you read the scripts, whether it was the series, the first movie, and now the second movie, there’s always new territory to explore. So, it is a second skin, but it’s a second skin with a challenge involved, and a new story to tell and that’s the great thing about what he (Michael Patrick King) does for us, and I think the show keeps growing in the sense that because it’s new and it will never die as long as we have stories that are new and fresh to tell. So I love her.
What was in the decision to bring Aiden (John Corbett) and Smith (Jason Lewis) back? Why Aiden of the ex’s?
MPK: The movie for me, one of the themes of the movie is evolution, really. Who the girls were in the past, who they are in the present, and who they’ll be in the future. So, when I started to look at Carrie Bradshaw’s past, I opened that door, I even opened up the door before we knew the girls, in the eighties for a brief moment. It was a quick look how they looked in the eighties maybe.
KC: That was fun!
MPK: It was so much fun. As soon as I opened the door to the past, Aiden was standing there, because of one reason. I know primarily my job is to tell a story that the audience will get excited by, and maybe worried about, and concerned about.
CN: Frightened of.
MPK: Carrie Bradshaw in this movie, is kind of reminiscent of all the Carrie Bradshaws I’ve ever written, is that she’s also capable of making mistakes. There’s that bad Carrie sometimes, and I love the bad Carrie, so I knew that when I ask a woman if they like Sex & the City, or they tell me they like Sex & the City I say one question, Big or Aiden? It clearly defines who they are, it splits right down the middle, they always go Big…
SJP: No, it splits 70/30!
MPK: It does actually split 70/30, but I know Aiden is still a player. And I brought Jason Lewis back because I’m no fool!
Who came up with the idea to wear the J’adore Dior tee with the dress in the market scene? And how many looks did you all total on screen?
SJP: OK, we’re fortunate in that one of them, one of the most valuable players, a junior from the wardrobe department is here to help me tell the story of one of my favorite outfits I’ve ever worn. His name is Paolo (Nieddu) … he’s one of Pat Field’s (costume designer) junior … and Paolo and I will talk you through the Souq outfit. So when we were in these wonderful long fittings that are one of my favorite parts of putting these movies together, they have probably hundreds of racks of clothes and Molly Rodgers has something she calls her snack pack and in that snack pack are little things she’s hidden in the wardrobe room. And she goes and she pulls from them, and out from her snack pack came that vintage J’adore Dior t-shirt which was really a vintage piece that’s really special. And we were thinking how wonderful this is, and we also knew we had the cultural restrictions of covering shoulders so we were sort of sorting through that conundrum and they brought out this beautiful Zac Posen dress and we looked at the dress, and then we started taking the dress apart. And what I’m wearing, tell them…
Paolo: She’s wearing…
SJP: The underpinnings.
Paolo: Yeah, it’s like a crinoline underneath the skirt.
SJP: That’s not the dress that’s meant to be seen.
Paolo: That was like a big, green, floral, like romantic ball gown. And then it’s just like horse hair…
SJP: Yeah, it’s horse hair, it’s taffeta. So what you’re seeing is not the part of the dress that was supposed to be seen. That’s the part of the foundation that gives it body.
Paolo: It was hanging next to the dress in the showroom.
SJP: And we were like: ‘Wait a minute!’ But you only think like that when you’re around people like this.
Paolo: We thought it was a skirt actually, at first when we saw it in the showroom. And then it was like, ‘Oh no, that’s underneath.’
SJP: That’s the story, and many pretty dresses. I don’t know how many were the final tally for each of us … But it would be in the forties.
KD: I don’t know.
KC: I heard 24 for Cynthia and Kristen, I think I had 26, and I think Sarah had like 40-something. I don’t know.
SJP: It’s an anemic tally if you ask me!
MPK: Chris had a shirt and a pair of pants.
You filmed a scene here at Bergdorf Goodman, was it straightforward to get permission to film here, or did you have to conjure up a special deal? And did you get in much time to shop while you were shooting?
SJP: No, we asked very, very politely. We asked with no sense of entitlement would they consider? John Melfi’s here who was part of making that happen, he’s our producing partner and Bergdorfs was incredibly hospitable and made the impossible possible for us to shoot here. And to shop here, that is always available to anybody who comes to visit the city! I think the hours are 11am to 7pm and maybe on Thursdays they’re open later. Traditionally finer department stores are.
KD: And I think I can say safely for all of us, that we really don’t shop that much, because we don’t kind of have time. And everyone thinks that we’re the biggest shoppers in the world, and I really don’t think any of us are, right?
KC: Well I have someone who shops for me. You just met him!
KD: Paolo, exactly. I think that people think that this is what we do in our spare time of whatever, but it’s not so much.
Is New York the best city to shop in?
KD: One hundred percent. I mean, you have uptown, you have downtown, there are so many choices and we were super thrilled to shoot here. And when we did shoot here, we did all troop up to the shoe department together.
KC: And the sunglasses…
KD: And the sunglasses department, so since we were shooting downstairs, we did take advantage of the situation.
KC: And there were breaks…
KD: There were little breaks, and we would run around. And we went to the dress department remember Sarah?
SJP: Yeah, good times.
KD: That was fun; we were wandering around in a pack.
CN: And then we were able to do that also in Morocco.
KC: Yes! Oh…
CN: That was great because you were in the middle of the most fantastic markets in the world.
Was it challenging to write about more ‘grown up’ subjects like marriage, kids and hormones considering the show was traditionally about four single women?
MPK: The great thing is that women tell you or show you or feel things very clearly. So, all you have to do is look around every time you’re sitting down to write to see what’s happening in the world. Sex & the City started out as a story of four single women in New York and rapidly with these actors we were able to take those archetype characters and shape them and make them more and more complicated over the years. And that involved risk, changing it up. We married Charlotte. Not because she had to be married, but because a girl that Charlotte represents would have got married whether it was love or not. It was just time to get married. So, we change it up all the time. And all the topics that are there now are just the topics that are being reflected in the ‘Carries’, ‘Samanthas’, ‘Charlottes’ and ‘Mirandas’ in the audiences and I think even the ‘Mr Bigs’.
Michael, what made your decisions to give Abu Dhabi the same sort of exposure as New York is normally given?
MPK: One of the daring things that we’ve always done is not being afraid to change the formula. As far as I’m concerned, I knew I had these four girls, I had Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte – I could put them anywhere and Sex & the City would be there. This movie I wanted to get the girls together more. I wanted to see four girls, together like I hadn’t seen in a while, and because Samantha is the single one, she contrived a trip to get them away from the men and the babies, so we had to go some place spectacular. And because we always try to stay as current as possible, we picked Abu Dhabi which is a great, current flashpoint for world culture and style right now. And as far as the length of it goes, it’s half New York, half exotic and then home. It feels like a great vacation and even though it feels long on film, which is decedent because I do have four female ladies and they have a lot of story to tell, it’s just about being on a great ride and I think we get back just in time!
SJP: And i just want to add that we do go so far away, but New York is so much, for me when I think about it, I think about everything that these characters are reflecting upon when they’re in this really grand, wonderful, faraway place is New York is a heartbeat away the whole movie. Everything that Carrie is thinking about is back in New York. Her past, her future, her present and her point of reference continues to be New York. So, while they have the great escape, it’s New York that is really framing the question and to me I never feel far away from it.
CN: Because we really carry New York with us. It’s…
KC: It’s the fifth girl.
CN: It’s the fifth girl, and it’s the lens through which we see everything and that’s the amazing thing about going to another country and seeing another culture is first you learn something about a world that you never knew, but equally important I think is it gives you a point of comparison to look back at your world to give you a little perspective on it and say, ‘Wow, this perhaps about my home I didn’t appreciate it, but now that I’ve been away from it and come back, now I can really appreciate it.’
MPK: And one other thought, when we did get lucky enough to go around to some other world cities when we opened the first movie, it was stunning and emotional to me that when they landed, there were girlfriends waiting for them everywhere, that they hadn’t even been to New York, or they just knew these characters and I think that kind of got in to my mind that the girls were global. Like they had friends around the world and that maybe went in to the thought.
Could Carrie’s asking of ‘Is this enough’ about her relationship with Big continue to be the theme for the third movie?
MPK: The brilliance of Carrie Bradshaw is that she is always going to ask. That’s the brilliance. She’s never going to not ask the questions. She’s a writer who needs answers, and she’s a person who needs…
SJP: Curiosity and complexity.
MPK: I have four amazing characters; they represent lots of women in the world. There will never be a time when they are all married. That’s not fair!
SJP: And it doesn’t reflect society.
KC: Thank God!
MPK: And so she has two children, Charlotte. Miranda has one. Why must every woman have a child? Why must every woman get married?
SJP: She (Carrie) keeps asking, but she doesn’t tell you where she falls, if there is an answer. She never editorializes on either answer. She’s just constantly asking the question, whatever is the question that is paramount in her mind at the moment. But I think she never gives away, and what I love about Charlotte and Miranda’s characters, how much they have shared their children with Carrie, and how much she has wanted to be a part of their children’s lives, and does it with such comfort and ease and sense of humor and genuinely looks forward to an arrival of Brady, or Lily, or Rose. Some people are better Godmothers, and they know that about themselves, and isn’t that wonderful?
The movie tackles marriage, motherhood, menopause…
KC: The three ‘M’s’!
What do you think the characters learn about these things? And did you learn anything from your characters during the film?
KD: Well I think for Charlotte, Charlotte has always been obsessed with goals and perfection, ever since we began meeting her when the goal was the perfect man. So in that way, this current movie is really, Charlotte is not different, it’s just that the things that are happening in her life are now slightly different things and the goal is perfection in her motherhood skills. And therefore she’s not living up to them, because really this whole society stress about being the perfect mother at all times and motherhood is this cult of the perfect mother, and ‘the children are everything’ and it’s so hard to actually be able to speak honestly about the hardness of being in that job every single day. And it was so important to us, in the scene with Miranda eventually when we can talk honestly about it. But these are themes for Charlotte that have always been there, the desire for this perfect picture that she’s always trying to create and never really can create, thank goodness, because that is how life is. So, I’ve had this wonderful reminder for 14 years or whatever long time it is. And it’s always good to remember, life is not perfect and you can’t control the elements and the more you try to control those elements the harder you’re going to make things for yourself. And I think from an acting perfective, certainly we had some good challenges and hurdles on the set, with the babies and that was exactly what Michael wrote. It’s always good, Michael wrote so much into everything that you almost don’t have to act in it in a way. We have this shorthand amongst ourselves, all of us, and then it’s always so much more intense, everything; the desert, the babies….
CN: The wedding!
KD: Oh goodness! You get this intensity that you just get to react to. But it’s always a good reminder that you can’t control things. That’s Charlotte’s issue and I relate of course.
CN: I think what was so wonderful for me, when we were filming it and now when we see it, is that Miranda has really done such an about-turn. I feel like Miranda had a big area of security and a big area of insecurity. And the big area of security was her profession. And her big area of insecurity was her womanliness. You know, there was a time way-back-when when she talked Carrie into taking her to a Goddess class, she was trying to find her inner Goddess, because she was so sure she didn’t have one. And what’s ironic and sort of beautiful too, is that Miranda has finally come in to her own and finally embraced her womanliness as a wife, and as a mother. And actually, she’s able, it’s very frightening for her, but she’s able to let go of her professional part and say, ‘I’m enough. I don’t have to be at work every day to know that I’m enough as a person. My personal life is now so rich and full that I finally can embrace that, and I finally can go a little bit in to Charlotte’s territory and say I’m not just a lawyer, I’m a woman, too.’
Chris, have you gained any insight into the inner workings of women over the last decade working on the show?
Chris: Well, I still don’t know the names of any of these shoes! I know not to interrupt them when they’re doing their makeup and hair!
KC: Or on their blackberry.
Chris: I always feel that film and entertainment, whatever we do is for them to decide, not for me … Doing this, you’re so close to it, it’s hard to see; I’ve known these people so long and worked with them, I can’t make any big generalizations about…
SJP: Do you like me?
Chris: I love you.
Chris, Carrie gets tempted by an ex in the movie, but Big is tempted by Penelope Cruz…
SJP: Who wouldn’t be?!
How was filming that scene with her?
Chris: Well, I thought it was far too short! But it was a lot of fun; she was very warm and down-to-earth. I don’t know about temptation, but it was a really pleasant flirtation.
SJP: I think she is so important in this movie, not just because she is massive movie star and she is a delight for anybody to stare at for as long as the time she gave us and as long the scene was written, but she makes Carrie Bradshaw say something very, very, very important that she has pushed away and Michael has cleverly and I think seamlessly written in the script. She makes Carrie introduce herself as Carrie Preston. And it’s just such great writing and Carrie’s not threatened by another woman, she is excited to see that part of him dance a little bit, but she’s a little bit perturbed that she doesn’t see more of that at home. And that’s not about another woman, that’s about Carrie and Big and there couldn’t have been a better person to step in and provoke that conversation than Penelope.
Chris: But it’s also a fun tease for the audience who think, ‘Oh, he’s going back to his old ways’.
MPK: I know he is! Which is why it was written, because people like the big, bad wolf part of…
Chris: Aoohhhh! I think the progression of Big from the pilot to now, is the progression of a man who goes from a cool head to a warm heart. It’s a long route!
Was it tough to tackle menopause of the big screen?
MPK: Well, first you start with the fact that it’s Kim Cattrall. So nobody else can do that. So she’s the perfect person to blaze that, ‘Oh I’m going through the change? Well, I’m not going to change!’ road. So, when you know you have a skilled, heartwarming clown like Kim who can do that, and stand up against…
SJP: Did you say the work sexy?
MPK: I edited myself, I was going to say somebody who’s also funny with their clothes off! A lot of people can be funny dress, you’re the rare treat that can do it either way. So, it’s a story and I knew I had Samantha to do that. And I think the interesting thing is what Sarah Jessica picked up on, is she’s going through menopause, but she’s funny. So we like to try and say, and she’s funny. Because society wants women to go through menopause and, change. So we don’t.
SJP: And I just think there’s just endless stories to tell about women. To me, I sincerely do not think about a woman’s age, whether I’m reading a book about a woman who is 60 or 16. I just think women’s stories are interesting. Just as interesting as men of all ages on screen have dominated and been the point of focus for audiences since the beginning of time, the beginning of talkies, or silent movies. Women’s stories are interesting. It’s just simply about good writing, for me it’s plain and simple.
MPK: And brilliant performances. Because listen, I could stand here and flip the script in front of you, you wouldn’t cry or laugh. You would just say, ‘That’s awful thick!’
SJP: Give women good scripts…
MPK: That’s the best.
Kristen you mentioned kids and babies; what were some of the other challenges on set?
KD: I really enjoyed my camel.
SJP: I loved our camel.
KD: I don’t know if Cynthia liked her camel as much as me.
CN: Yes I did!
KC: Our camel kept going up and down.
SJP: He was dopey!
KD: But that was adorable and funny for us.
KC: For you, you weren’t on the back of it! They don’t call it the ship of the desert for nothing!
KD: I think the hardest thing was the sand dunes. I think everyone here knows I felt that way. It was hard to walk over that sand dune!
SJP: (mimics Kristen) That sand dune!!
CN: Aba dabba dune!
MPK: I have a sand dune story. This is the most amazing thing, they are behind the Sahara desert sand dunes. The Lawrence of Arabia sand dunes. And yet it wasn’t enough, I could still see the top of their heads, so in 120 degrees in the Sahara desert sun.
CN: In the heels!
MPK: In heels, you (Cynthia) were wearing flip flops which is my story. I actually yelled to them, ‘Duck!’ So they’re squatting, waiting for action…
SJP: It was like Marcel Marceau, you know where you grow on screen, but it’s in fact you.
MPK: And they had to walk in unison…
KD: And Kim couldn’t see because of her head gear.
SJP: Because of her jockey hat.
MPK: Cynthia was stepping and sand got under her flip flop and kind of took her down!
KD: She’s not the only one!
MPK: She’s had four inch Louis Vuitton heels on, she’s like the terminator. She yells, ‘How are you doing that?’
SJP: I loved it!
KD: It came out really well, but that was my hardest, hardest moment for sure! But it’s all good on film.
SJP: But we don’t know how to operate if there aren’t challenges. I don’t know that we could even sight them, that’s just the way we operate best. If it were easy, we would have absolutely no interest in it.
KC: Or fun!
KD: It’s true. I think also, what’s fun and fantastic about this is that we were in this whole other situation. I mean we’ve done the cobble stones here, so we had to go to the Souq and do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of year old cobble stones. See how we did there! That’s how we do things.
You had hundreds and hundreds of fans on location here in the city throughout the filming, how do you explain its popularity and success?
MPK: I would say, that the phenomenon of Sex & the City is really about something that was an original moment at a time where there needed to be that moment. And because of the hearts and the souls of the women playing these parts, underneath these amazing fireworks displays called clothing, we got the attention, we were the voice that needed to be heard. And the reason it’s continued I think, is because we’ve been daring enough to let it continue and not try to freeze it at some point and say, ‘Now, all behave like you did when it was at its peak on television.’ So, I just think there was a woman’s voice and maybe a man’s voice and just a new voice that needed to be heard and that’s what I think.
Sex & the City 2 hits cinemas May 27 in the US and June 2 in Australia.