More ‘Sex,’ and the City Is Happy About It
One recent afternoon Bettiann Fishman climbed a ladder in front of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and brought a bullhorn to her mouth. “Hey, everybody,” she said, addressing crowds gathered on the library steps, on the sidewalk and in the street. “We’re going to roll now, so please don’t shoot.”
Around her, dozens of crew members prepared for what should have been a straightforward scene in “Sex and the City,” the movie. But the 60-second moment — in which the stars arrive in a limo and walk up the steps — took hours to shoot, partly because of the constantly surging onlookers armed with video cameras, cellphones and attitude. (Just one exchange: “Don’t touch me!” “How ’bout I knock your brains out?”)
Desperate fans snapped photos of the empty directors’ chairs. “Can I sit down?” a tourist from Italy pleaded. “Just for a moment — a picture for my friends.” A publicist obliged. Nearby an assistant managed a cart laden with identical bouquets of white and red roses and purple orchids. And teetering on enormously high heels while looking way too glam for daytime were Samantha (Kim Cattrall, in a red gown with plunging décolletage), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, in a slim royal-blue sheath), Charlotte (Kristin Davis, architectural black) and finally Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker in a poufy, off-white confection by Vivienne Westwood). The girls were — ohmigod! — going to a wedding.
When “Sex and the City,” the movie, began shooting in New York this fall, the sight of its stars was both commonplace and traffic-stopping, breathlessly chronicled by bloggers and gossip writers. (Gawker.com cattily called it “The Most Important Movie Ever Filmed in New York.”) Every outdoor setting inspired wicked speculation about story lines and behind-the-scenes relationships. Even the cast and crew were surprised by the level of attention.
“It’s like seeing the movie on ‘Access Hollywood’ before it’s out,” Michael Patrick King, the screenwriter and director, said.
From the basement of the Bryant Park Hotel, where she was hiding from the crowds after the library shoot, Ms. Parker said, “I basically just look down between every take because it’s too hard if you look up and you see the perimeter is madness.”
Though the television series ended its six-year run on HBO in 2004, many viewers follow it on DVD or in syndication here and abroad. For them “Sex and the City” is a continuing affair, one that still envelops New York with the promise of liberation through trapeze lessons, bottomless cosmopolitans and will-they-or-won’t-they sex.
Melissa Rosenberg, 25, a Washington Post copy editor visiting from Vienna, Va., read about the production online and came to watch. “It’s just cool to be here, knowing this is going to be in the movie,” she said. “Unless this is one of those things they do to throw us off.”
A warning to anyone who has not obsessively followed coverage of the film, scheduled for a May 30 release: There may be spoilers ahead. Or not. Despite the nearly constant presence of cameras and the obvious visual cues (Ms. Parker’s wedding dress; Ms. Davis in a pregnancy belly), the filmmakers have taken pains to mask the plot from ravenous fans.
“They really aren’t hearing the dialogue,” Mr. King said. “They’re not knowing how the characters interact. There’s emotional stuff in the movie that no one has ever seen.”
But the audience reaction was a central preoccupation during the seven months it took him to write the script, especially since the characters are aging beyond their gal-about-town ways. At one point Mr. King, an executive producer of the series, retreated to a small hotel in the California desert to help him focus.
“I want the audience to leave the movie feeling feted and exhausted,” he said. “I don’t want it to just be cocktails or dessert. I want it to be a full meal.”
When last we left our heroines — Miranda, the no-nonsense lawyer and mother turned reluctant Brooklynite; Samantha, the sexually adventurous public relations queen and cancer survivor; Charlotte, the sweet-natured wife; and Carrie, the relationship columnist and Manolo fetishist — they seemed ready to put toxic bachelors and randy Manhattan nights behind them.
“That sort of wanton lust, it’s just not at the surface of their skin anymore,” Ms. Parker said. “What’s important to me is that Carrie isn’t frivolous and silly, that there is sophistication to her. She’s making a serious attempt at making grown-up decisions about love and about life choices.” (For the record, in the film Carrie is on her third book, Samantha has moved to Los Angeles, Charlotte dotes on her new family, and Miranda still lives in, and hates, Brooklyn.)
The characters’ aging will also determine the way they interact with the city because “32-year-olds go out and get drunk and sleep with inappropriate men in bars downtown,” Mr. King said. “And 42-year-old girls maybe don’t. Today they’re out in front of the library getting married. That would’ve never happened in the 32-year-old New York.”
Later he added: “In the series we chased the minutiae of being single a lot, the turn of a rejection phrase — you’re a ‘plus one,’ but no one came. The movie has those details, but they’re not as obsessive. When you’re four single girls sitting around a coffee shop, you have the luxury of time, and when you’re a little bit more grown up, it’s a luxury just to talk.”
But what to talk about? Once the show had to educate the world about its glitzy cocktails-and-charge-card culture. Now everyone else has caught up — and perhaps moved on.
“I sometimes get blamed for the meatpacking district, yes,” Mr. King said. “And I’m sorry. But it can be nice on certain nights. And it can be awful on other nights. Like New York, you know?”
Still, coming up with next year’s “it” spots wasn’t easy. “We talked to some people in publishing and magazines and fashion, single people who don’t have drinking problems whose recollection you can rely on,” said Ms. Parker, who has been a producer since the show’s first season. Big and crowded is out; intimate is in. They shot in classic places like the Carlyle Hotel and Raoul’s, the SoHo bistro. And they have seasons: While the series was set in what Mr. King called “eternal spring,” the movie takes place over a full year.
Which brings us to the clothing. Ms. Parker began fittings in August, just before Fashion Week, for her 80 or so costume changes. But by the time the movie comes out, this season’s version of the flower pins that the costume designer Patricia Field made famous a few years ago will be post-post-over.
“To get spring-summer for ’08, it was this strategizing and finessing and negotiating,” Ms. Parker said. “We would get clothes for, like, four hours, and then there would be someone from Yves Saint Laurent standing there and stripping me of them and taking them back.”
Ms. Parker is a hands-on producer (“I like that I feel responsible for people,” she said), but she also is actressy enough that she doesn’t watch dailies, though she did make sure there were softening filters on the camera lenses. (Wrinkles here are scarce, in real life and on screen.)
A “Sex and the City” movie was in the works immediately after the series ended but was scuttled when Ms. Cattrall wouldn’t agree to appear. “What was scary about doing a movie is that we left on such a high note,” she said in an interview in her trailer, where she retreated immediately after the library shoot. “And I think if we were going to go back into it, money was definitely a factor.”
The delay, coupled with the continuing “S.A.T.C.” mania — it is nearly impossible to reference contemporary urban womanhood without the show’s glossy shadow — has made the film harder to do, Ms. Parker and Mr. King said. Only a few series have successfully made the transition from TV screen to movie screen with the same cast. “I feel like Mr. Spock,” Ms. Nixon said.
As a lauded theater actress, did she even miss playing Miranda? “I did miss her,” she said. “I missed the whole thing. I missed the fictional people. I missed the real people. I missed the crew and the day-to-day of shooting the series.”
The movie is a different story. Despite the best efforts, and cursing, of Ms. Fishman — a first assistant director now known as Bullhorn Betti — the photographers at the library, both amateur and professional, kept shooting. “Did you hear the paparazzi yelling at me because they didn’t like where I was standing for their shot?” Ms. Davis said. “I moved, and then I was, like, what am I doing?”
Back at the hotel Ms. Parker was circumspect about the attention. “I really try to not think too much about what will people think — you know, are the homosexuals going to gag? Are the women going to be disappointed in this choice of story we’re going to tell? — because it’s just a very complicated way of working.”
In the end the film’s success will depend on much the same thing as the TV show’s: the women and the city.
“For me the whole movie is the streets,” Ms. Parker said. “Because that’s where all the promise and potential is. That’s the romance. That’s the hope. That’s where single women walk out the door every day, and they just don’t know what is two steps away.”
zaman: 8:06 PM