The King of New York: An Interview with Michael Patrick King, Sex and the City’s Male Mastermind
Michael Patrick King was one of the original creators of the series Sex and the City. He and Darren Star (another openly gay writer/producer/director) turned Candace Bushnell’s books and stories into a TV institution chronicling the lives and loves of four fun New York City women in their 30s (and then some). While Star departed after the first year, King was the show’s genius and shepherd guiding it along for six seasons of marriage, men, mud fights, and Manolo Blahniks.
The show made Sarah Jessica Parker (and to some extent her costars) an icon, and no shortage of bright-eyed girls (and gay boys) moved to New York City to find their own Mr. Big as a result. If you’ve ever witnessed the line waiting for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, you’re aware of the influence that King and his four fab ladies hath wrought.And, as you know, a movie version of Sex and the City is barreling toward cinemas May 30. To get you prepped, here’s King himself explaining the story of taking his fab foursome to the big screen; what’s up with gay characters Stanford and Anthony Marantino; which character he’s really most like; and those rumors about his feuding stars. Hey, we couldn’t help but wonder….
So….What was the hardest thing about approaching this story, about writing it?
I think the hardest thing was the length. The biggest struggle was getting as much story in as I could to justify all of the fans’ expectations of these characters. I’d be writing the coffee shop scene, and I’d say to myself, “Just don’t look at Miranda, because she’s going to do 20 minutes on this, and you can’t do it page-count-wise.”
And, the movie clocks in at over two hours….
The movie is long, because it’s a movie with four female leads, which dictates a lot of story. And the one thing that women always said to me was, “Don’t make it short!”—because it’s an event. Gone with the Wind is three hours and 45 minutes long. Now, I would equate the reason that movie is so long is out of respect to that book, and I would say that pop culture impact of Gone with the Wind then, and Sex and the City now, is comparable….It’s got to be long!!
Well, I didn’t realize it was long until it was over, and I looked down at my watch.
That’s the magic of those girls. They charm ya!
Why do you think the show has resonated so much with gay people?
This series speaks to any outsider, anyone who doesn’t fit into society’s idea of husband and wife, and happily ever after. It’s about finding and creating your own family from your friends. And I think that’s why it stuck with the first wave of people who liked it, women and gay men, because what society says to women is that “you’re not enough.” It’s like, “You’re not in our clique.” And our “clique” implies husband, wife, and children—and that’s unfair to lots of people.
Was it hard getting the movie made? There were always rumors that Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker don’t get along? Was that an impediment?
This is some Bette Davis/Joan Crawford virus that keeps coming up, and I don’t know what that story is. All I know is that they really are amazing on this movie, and they were amazing from the moment I said, “Action!” Any movie is difficult to maneuver through, and for me, it was a question of, to quote a show tune, “Can Brigadoon happen again?” Is this window going to open? And it did. I wrote this movie for them, and they were more than happy to play it, all of them, from the minute they showed up. I have dailies of them all singing Christmas carols the night before Christmas. I’m saying, “Action!” and they’re still singing. Another interesting thing is that they all went to dinner together to Nobu in Malibu, when we were shooting out there. And I said, “I hope there were paparazzi there, so they get a picture of this!” And there were paparazzi there, but you never saw those pictures. That’s not a story.
Are Anthony and Stanford a couple in the movie? There are some moments between them that seem to hint at that.
You know, it’s funny. The big, first, 365-page version of the movie sort of started off with Stanford’s wedding to Marcus, his ex-boyfriend. But I had to cut it, and keep only the essential plot points. And they’re both in there because Stanford is essential to Carrie, and Anthony is essential to Charlotte, and then, because Anthony is a wedding planner, he’s plot-driven. But in a New Year’s Eve Moment that you see, there’s an energy like they’re the last two men standing.
And that’s when Anthony says to Stanford, “Oh, thank God you’re here!” And then, they’re both sitting together at another time, too.
I think it’s like they’ve been through the war together. They’re war buddies! And they play it so well, those two. Actually, there’s a scene that’ll be on the DVD where Stanford calls Carrie, and says, “Come to the club—there’s nobody fun here.” And then, he sees Anthony, so….
Which character is the most “you?”
Carrie Bradshaw is a writer, I’m a writer—and I guess you love the one that’s the biggest puzzle to solve. And when we were writing the series, we said if you don’t have Carrie’s story, you don’t have a story. So, for me, it’s always started with Carrie.
OK. One non-Sex question: Any life left in The Comeback?
Oh, I love it when people talk about The Comeback. You know, Valerie Cherish is like the Terminator. You could shoot Valerie Cherish in the head, and she’d keep coming back. So, if Lisa Kudrow decides she wants to do anything with it again, I’m there, because that was phenomenal. She’s a star.
Finally, could there be a show like Sex and the City about gay men? Could it be done right—depicting this city, friendships, and life?
You know, a lot of things have to happen to make any group show work. Four gay men might be interested in talking enough about relationships, and making fun of them. I’m not saying that women and gay men talk alike. I’m saying that they’re interested in trying to solve the problems of relationships, because neither of them have a prototype that fits. But with the right writer and the right four actors, and the right truth combined with an outrageous sense of humor—yeah, you could do it.