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.
“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 don’t think I had any understanding of the degree to which people’s interest would be.”
Kim Cattrall, who plays Carrie’s 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 wouldn’t say how much they miss the show or how much they love the show. They’re 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 Tiffany’s and Saks; Christie’s auction house, Vogue’s offices in the Condé 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; Nick’s 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 where Sex and the City filmed included Buddakan and 202 Restaurant in Chelsea, The Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel and Lumi on the Upper East Side, Junior’s in Brooklyn, Raoul’s in Soho, the House near Gramercy Park, Starbucks at Astor Place, Good World Café 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, Carrie’s straight-shooter friend, an attorney. “When you come back to the studio and there’s your old dressing room, and you go into the wardrobe room and it’s exactly as it was, and all the same people are there, you do feel like you’re stepping back in time.”
“I think the most surreal moment was stepping into Carrie’s 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.’”
“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, Carrie’s 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 Carrie’s apartment that could not be found were painstakingly recreated for the film, while Charlotte’s 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.”
“Jeremy’s sense of style, his clean lines – he’s incredibly elegant and chic, and it’s 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 what’s accessible.”
“Jeremy has done such beautiful work,” adds Sarah Jessica Parker. “I think it’s his best work ever.”