Sex and (New York) City: Starring Sarah Jessica Parker

When “Sex and the City” debuted on HBO in 1998, few television shows were shot in New York, and the majority were police dramas, which highlighted the rougher side of the city.
The New York that Darren Star envisioned for Sex and the City, on the other hand, was inspired more by Woody Allen, and the city the director so beautifully depicted in his films Manhattan and Annie Hall. They are the definition of great 1970s romantic comedies that took place in New York, and I wanted to carry that tradition a little bit into the series, says Star. I wanted to really capture the glamour and the fun and the excitement of New York.

New York added an enormous amount to the series, says Michael Patrick King. I think New York is Americas cosmopolitan city. So if youre going into these girls lives, and theyre trying to grow up, what better place than the most grown-up city in the world

New York as Dream City

According to King, none of the four girls are from New York. Rather, they each moved to the city in pursuit of their dreams and made the city their own. And its like a dream city because sometimes you feel like its focused on you, and youre having the best time of your life. And then there are other times when you completely disappear, so its great for storytelling.

New York became the fifth woman of the story, says Sarah Jessica Parker. She really became this critical character, integral to the story. With that in mind, there was no question that the feature film would be both filmed and set in New York City.

Principal photography on “Sex and the City” began in New York City on September 19, 2007, with Michael Patrick King, who also wrote the screenplay, at the helm. Though King had directed numerous episodes of the series, Sex and the City marks his feature film directorial debut.

Its really been fun as a filmmaker to be able to figure out how to tell a bigger story, says King, who actually found aspects of directing a feature to be easier than the series. When I was doing the series I would be doing one episode and thinking about seven other episodes. So the ability to just do one story day in and day out was amazing.

For Sarah Jessica Parker, stepping in front of the cameras to once again star as Carrie Bradshaw felt very natural. The first day was so familiar that I didnt even think about it, she says.

Sarah Jessica Parker as Producer

As a producer of the film, Parker was especially appreciative to see that so many of the crew from the series had returned for the film. In fact, eight crew members who had been with the show from the pilot until the last episode were back for the movie.

Everybody had committed themselves to us in such incredible ways, says Parker. And sacrificed time with their children and family. Some of the best memories I ever had professionally were at two or three in the morning, on some crazy unknown street, and still laughing and enjoying each others company.

We are like a really intense family, adds Kristin Davis, who plays Carries Park Avenue girlfriend Charlotte. We have some new additions, and a few people couldnt join us, but largely most of us are together for the movie.

While the series had attracted attention when it filmed on the streets of New York, neither the cast nor the crew were quite prepared for the reception that greeted the film when cameras started to roll. Hundreds of New Yorkers, tourists, paparazzi and journalists jammed the streets every single day that Sex and the City filmed on location.

Intelectually Prepared

When we came back to shoot the movie, I was intellectually prepared, I thought, for some level of interest on the streets, says Parker. But I dont think I had any understanding of the degree to which peoples interest would be.

Kim Cattrall, who plays Carries outrageously glamorous friend Samantha, was similarly unprepared for the amount of interest in the production. The first day I expected a group of fans or onlookers or some press, she says. But when I came to the set, and stepped out of the car in the morning, I felt like I was at a premiere.

It was like a three-ring circus, adds Kristin Davis. It was stunning. Not a day would go by that someone wouldnt say how much they miss the show or how much they love the show. Theyre very supportive fans.

While the task of crowd control threatened to slow production, the expertise of assistant director Bettiann Fishman, a Sex and the City veteran who was given the nickname Bullhorn Betty on the film, kept the crowds happy, entertained and in check.

Among the locations where the film shot were on Fifth Avenue, outside Tiffanys and Saks; Christies auction house, Vogues offices in the Cond Nast building, the Riccardo Maggiore Salon and Hotel Giraffe in midtown; Bryant Park and the neighboring main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue; the stores Vitra and Diane Von Furstenberg in the meat-packing district; Nicks Hair Salon in Greenwich Village; on Henry Street on the Lower East Side, Park Avenue on the Upper East Side, Perry Street in Greenwich Village, and Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn; the Mercer Hotel and Luce Plan furniture store in Soho; the Central Park reservoir, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Restaurants

The restaurants where “Sex and the City” shot included Buddakan and 202 Restaurant in Chelsea, The Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel and Lumi on the Upper East Side, Juniors in Brooklyn, Raouls in Soho, the House near Gramercy Park, Starbucks at Astor Place, Good World Caf in Chinatown and The Modern in midtown. The production also ventured outside New York City to shoot in Malibu, outside Gucci on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, on the UCLA campus and in Simi Valley, California.

When not shooting on location, the production returned to film at the same stages where the series had been created, Silvercup Studios, in Long Island City, New York. It was surreal, says Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda, Carries straight-shooter friend, an attorney. When you come back to the studio and theres your old dressing room, and you go into the wardrobe room and its exactly as it was, and all the same people are there, you do feel like youre stepping back in time.

Surreal Moments

I think the most surreal moment was stepping into Carries apartment, says Sarah Jessica Parker. Because it had been re-established virtually identically. I think they call it forensic archeology, like when a house burns down and you want to rebuild it. I was like, This is wonderful and bizarre.

Storing Stuff

Sarah Jessica had stored a lot of stuff, God bless her, says production designer Jeremy Conway, whose task was to recreate the apartment where many memorable moments from the series took place. But one distinctive item from the original set was missing. When the series wrapped, Carries desk had been donated to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. While the designer knew exactly where the desk was, the Smithsonian was not in the habit of returning donated items.

Sarah Jessica was able to reach out to them and convince them that maybe we could get her desk back just for a little while, while we were filming the project. And that worked out really well. Conway explains. Items from Carries apartment that could not be found were painstakingly recreated for the film, while Charlottes lavish Park Avenue residence was also remade.

I was really lucky in being able to get a lot of my original crew back, says Conway. It was really interesting because as crew members came on who had worked on the show originally, they would remember things like small details we might not otherwise have remembered.

But again, Conway was always cognizant of the fact that four years had passed in the characters lives when he designed the sets. Everything was just a little more grown up for all the women, he says. And we really focused a lot more on real materials beautiful wallpapers and linens and the sort of details and textures that you would expect to see.

Jeremys sense of style, his clean lines hes incredibly elegant and chic, and its a hyper-reality look in terms of its sense of style, states producer John Melfi. Jeremy has a great way of riding the line between the chic elegance of the way we would all want to live, and whats accessible.

Jeremy has done such beautiful work, adds Sarah Jessica Parker. I think its his best work ever.

Throughout the course of the story, Conway not only recreated the homes of Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda, but also created new environments for Samantha, Mr. Big and others. Sometimes Michael Patrick King would call it like a confection or an ice cream sundae, says Conway about the look of the film. He said, people are going to watch this movie and know about fashion, and what Pat Field is going to do, and he said, I want to do the same thing for anyone whos interested in architecture and interior design.

Gorgeous Look

Another key player who created the films gorgeous look is cinematographer John Thomas, who also photographed much of the “Sex and the City” series, including the Paris episodes in the series final season. I think its the best work of his career, says Parker. Its incredible work that hes been doing.

John Thomas work in the movie is beautiful, agrees Michael Patrick King. The lighting is amazing, and he is great to work with. In fact, Thomas talent was matched by his easy-going manner on the set, a work environment that was enjoyed by all.

The actors high regard for their director also contributed to the good feeling on set. Michael is very supporting and very loving, says Cynthia Nixon. He just sends all his good vibes at us all the time.

Michael Patrick makes us laugh every day, adds Kristin Davis, who is astounded by the directors immersion in the project. He has some strange ability to be all the characters, she says. Sometimes hell come to direct a scene in the movie, and hell be really choked up. Its so adorable. Hes written it and lived it.

If this movie has any success, its because of his intense passion to do it right, adds Sarah Jessica Parker about King. Hes very inspiring.

I can say it was really fun to direct a movie like this because of the people I worked with, says King. Theyre all geniuses. All the actresses are amazing, the actors are amazing, the designers are amazing. So for me, its like being a kid in a candy store.

King hopes viewers of “Sex and the City” will have a similarly pleasurable experience watching the film. I always thought that the series was a roller coaster, he says. And I think the movie is like a major roller coaster, with ups and downs and twists.

King also hopes viewers of the film Sex and the City will find in the movie not only what they loved from the series, but will experience something more, as well. When you go to the movies, you want to learn something about life, or laugh about life, or cry about life, he says. And hopefully, with the movie, youll be able to laugh and really cry.

I want people leaving the movie theater feeling, all right, great, that was a lot!, he concludes. That was drinks, appetizer, main course, and dessert, dessert, dessert!