The secrets of SATC's success -- and it's not about being gay
As Carrie and co return for more adventures in Sex and City 2, the film's director, Michael Patrick King, tells Gill Pringle why he understands what women want
"Let there be no mistake," says Sex and the City 2's producer/director/writer Michael Patrick King.
"A gay man alone could never begin to replicate the inner workings of the female mind. There are thousands of gay men who couldn't write these women -- it's all about the female view of the world, channelled through these characters."
Reprising his triple-threat role in the first big screen version of the award-winning TV series -- which surprised cynics by taking $415m (€340m) at the global box office two years ago -- King aims to beat that record with his much-heralded sequel.
Based, in part, on journalist Candace Bushnell's book of the same name -- compiled from her columns in the New York Observer -- TV producer Darren Star adapted her work into one of HBO's most successful TV series, broadcasting 94 episodes between 1994 and 2004.
Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw, she weekly shared her sexual frustrations and fantasies -- along with those of her three best friends, Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) -- with millions of ardent viewers across the globe.
During the course of six seasons, Sex And The City would be nominated for more than 50 Emmy awards, winning seven times.
A tough act to follow? "There's always pressure," concedes openly gay scribe King (55), who co-wrote all the SATC season finales and premieres since the second season as well as directing both big screen outings.
"Anytime you create a new artistic, anything, there's pressure. Because one of my rules when I did the series, and I maintained it on this movie, was never to repeat a story. I try not to repeat an emotion.
"I want it all to be new for the viewers and to challenge myself as a writer. But because these characters are so vibrant, both to me and to people around the world who still follow their lives, it's easy to get lost in 'What would they do?'
"If I'm proud of anything, then it's the fact that we took sex out of the shadows where it was a dirty secret, and made it all pink and fuzzy like a good bottle of champagne.
"My female writers have always been my backbone. I had a writing room of six women for five years so I know what women do. Cultivated by me, by the way!" laughs the former stand-up comedian who previously worked on fem-coms Murphy Brown, Cybill, Will & Grace and post-Friends sitcom, The Comeback. "The amazing thing about women is that they really will reveal everything about who they are to you. They're very present in their emotions and very available and the fun entry place for SATC was, as much as for those four female characters when it begun, that the real voice I found interesting was the single girl voice; the idea that there's a belief that if you're not married or you don't have children, that you're a leper.
"So any time you get to write the underdog as your main energy, it's really exciting. I was actually raised with three sisters, and I never got the line that girls were less than men or anything so it was very easy for me to just sort of listen and, like any writer, you have a series of variables and you try to put them in play. So it's really not just about hiring women, it's about hiring writers, and it's not about being a gay man who writes for women because they simply can't do what these women do."
While SATC is cherished by both women and gay men alike, King gets to explore one of his pet topics in the sequel, scripting the same-sex marriage of the TV series' pivotal gay characters Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marantino (Mario Cantone). Co-starring with the Cosmo-loving ladies are familiar faces David Eigenberg, Evan Handler and Jason Lewis while "surprise" guest stars include Miley Cyrus, Penelope Cruz and Liza Minnelli.
Shot between New York and Morocco, SATC fans will once again be torn between Carrie's Mr Big, played by Chris Noth, and John Corbett's Aidan.
"I was very aware of making this film during a time of economic downturn," says King.
"So I thought, 'Okay, it's a depression. In the Great Depression, what did people do? What did people need?' And I thought, extravagance. Let's make this a grand road movie -- we even got to film on the same dunes where they shot Lawrence of Arabia".
See Pages 34/35