Ten years ago, “Sex and the City” was an anthology of Candace Bushnell’s columns from the New York Observer newspaper. When the rights were purchased for a mere $50,000 by the creator of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the concept was developed to run on a pay-cable channel whose biggest previous hit had been “The Larry Sanders Show.” It would star an actress whose career had fallen to barely released flicks like “If Lucy Fell,” another best remembered for the 1987 hit “Mannequin,” an actress booted off “Melrose Place” after only one year and a struggling former child star.
Now, its unlikely journey has made “Sex and the City” a summer blockbuster competing with Hollywood’s biggest heroes.
“Carrie Bradshaw is Indiana Jones for the female audience this summer,” series creator Darren Star laughed, discussing “Sex and the City: The Movie,” which opens on May 30.
“It’s enormously flattering to know that people still care about the show,” grinned 43-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker , whose career has gotten increasingly hotter every year since she first got Carrie-d away. “[When we were filming the movie] crowd-control was difficult to deal with. It’s a wonderful problem to have that kind of interest; it was exciting to have that energy around us.”
Bucking the box-office formula laid out by such films as “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and the “X Files” movie, Star’s sisterhood of the traveling designer pants is generating hope for a $60 million-plus opening weekend.
“When I put the show on TV, I wanted it to feel like people were watching a movie,” Star said, speculating on why “SATC” might work better on the big screen than other adaptations of recent TV shows. “[I hoped] it wouldn’t feel like they were watching a TV show. It would feel like a movie.”
After six hit seasons on HBO, high-class DVD releases and thousands of hours of TBS reruns, the show has accumulated more fans than ever. Now, the studio hopes that they’ll soon be dragging their boyfriends and husbands to the theater to see the latest drama in the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.
“I feel like the characters are friends to the audience, and they just want to spend time with their old friends,” Star said. “When women watch the show, they like to identify with one of these women.
“Carrie is the observer. [Charlotte] is the rules girl,” he summed up. “Miranda is the one who puts aside work for men, but she’s focused on her career. Samantha is the one who can live life like a man, have sex without strings and gives this 1970s vibe, like the freedom of sexuality.”
Believe it or not, there are still some “Sex and the City” trivia tidbits that even the most faithful flirtini drinkers don’t know. So before you head out to the theater, here are a few fun facts to get you in the mood:
» Man’s Best Friend: “There was a scene in the first season when Charlotte walked in on a guy she was dating, and his golden retriever was [performing a sexual favor on] him,” Star said of the taboo that even “SATC” wasn’t allowed to touch. “That was the only thing deemed too inappropriate for ‘Sex and the City’ — and that was a deal-breaker for Charlotte.”
» Blond Ambitions: Determined to hire a redhead for Miranda, Star almost passed over Cynthia Nixon. “For me, it was important that the hair color, body types and everything was different,” he remembered. “When Cynthia Nixon came in to read for the first time, she was blond. I saw Miranda as a redhead. Thankfully, I took that leap of faith that she would look good as a redhead.”
» Tutu Tango: The “Sex and the City” opening with Carrie walking down the street in a ballerina outfit is iconic, but Star remembers filming a different take that day. “Sitting in the vault somewhere, there is an alternate opening-credit sequence where Sarah is wearing a blue dress,” he revealed. “And she doesn’t get splashed by the bus, but instead she trips when she sees the bus.”
» Avoiding a Big Mistake: At the time of his casting, Chris Noth was best known as a tough TV cop. Star insists that if he had seen Noth’s work, the actor likely wouldn’t have gotten his Mr. Big break. “Chris did audition, but the advantage he had was I had never watched ‘Law & Order,’ ” the creator remembered. “Two years into ‘Sex and the City,’ I finally saw it, and there he was running around with a gun! And I couldn’t believe that Mr. Big was running around with a gun. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m glad I didn’t see that.’ ”
» Sex and the Retirement Home: “I love that women identify with the characters, because it empowers them; it gives them more freedom in their own lives,” Star explained. “But I have had friends’ mothers come up to me and say, ‘I’m Samantha!’ That scares me a little.”
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