Kim Cattrall - Samantha can't leave Sex behind

Those mega-chick-flicks mean Kim Cattrall can afford to do whatever she wants with the rest of her life. She tells Kaleem Aftab why that includes playing an ex-porn-star

Kim Cattrall can't shake Sex and the City. No matter how many theatre plays, or independent movies she does, the actress will forever be Samantha Jones.

The reach of the television series was so great that when her new film, Meet Monica Velour, opened the Aruba Film Festival, the inhabitants of the Caribbean island turned out in droves.

Away from the glare of the limelight, she admitted that she was conscious of the need to perform. "I have a costume on, even today; [talking to the press] is like a performance to me. I'm here as Kim but I prepared for it like a professional."

Being a professional seems to come naturally to Cattrall, who argues: "I've always felt that I'm a character actress in a leading lady's body. I think that is why my big success has come later on in life and I think that the next 30 years of my life, if I keep on working, are going to be the most exciting, because I'm a bungee-jumper actress, I don't play it safe, and I'm not interested in playing it safe and that is why I think that Hollywood is not in my future."

The actress sees Hollywood as a playground for younger models: "There are not a lot of jobs for me in Hollywood anyway. I love setting the gauntlet down and saying, 'this is what I look like without make-up and great lighting'. I'm not interested in being a Barbie-doll and making myself into a sausage for the next 20 years. I want to go and be like the actresses who have lines on their face, look their age and are not frightened of portraying actresses who are such."

She wants her career to follow the path of Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. It would be no mean feat.

Her first stab at this sort of career-changing performance is Meet Monica Velour. It's about a 17-year-old boy infatuated with 1970s porn actress Monica Velour, and who sets about to see her in a show. It's 20 minutes in before Cattrall enters, playing Velour in her fifties, washed up and overweight.

Cattrall reveals that the film would not have happened has she not agreed to take on the role. The first-time director Keith Bearden needed an actress with box-office appeal to get financing. Cattrall was sent the script by her agent, who told her she wouldn't want to do it. The agent could not have been more wrong. The actress met the director and not only agreed to do the part, but decided to pay for rehearsal space herself and to put on 20lb to play the porn-star character.

Today, that weight has more than dropped off. The 54-year-old admits that she is petrified of going under the knife, and keeps her figure by doing a ruthless exercise regime.

She is non-committal about the prospect of playing Samantha Jones again: "I don't want to hear any more from a publicist in New York, no matter how much I love her. I know exactly what Jones is going to say all the time and it's a character that has so many choices. Now I want to give a voice to characters that don't have anything. I would never bite the hand that has fed me, believe me, and who knows what may happen as far as another venture down that road, but that is not what excites me."

She was most resistant to doing the first movie, refusing to make a film for four years after the show ended, and admits that the reason for doing this was financial, as well as creative: "I really felt the three of us [herself, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davies] were not set for life, we were on cable TV, we were huge TV stars but we were not making anything near what our counterparts were making and I thought we worked damn hard and now we had our opportunity to do that."

Cattrall says that its far more likely that the next time we see the Carrie Bradshaw and her friends on screen it will be in a prequel rather than a sequel, but she quickly adds a word of warning to the show's producers, "They better get it right casting-wise."

She is now in a position where she is financially secure and so can choose her roles more carefully. This has largely been taking parts on stage in England. Her recent successes include Private Lives, which is transferring to Broadway, and she has just finished working on Anthony and Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse – she reveals that it's likely to transfer to the West End at some point next year.

The end of the television show coincided with a desire to return to England. She admits: "After Sex and the City ended I was exhausted and needed time out. My marriage was coming to an end and my job was finished and my father had just been diagnosed with dementia. I thought I just needed to stop. I needed to go home. For me that was England and Canada, and England was where I started working again and I'm so glad I did, I feel replenished and strong. Sometimes you really do need to go home again."

A common theme that runs through all her conversation is that she wants to do work that empowers women. The Liverpool-born star admits that she will even turn down roles if they don't meet this criteria. "I have just been offered a role in a big movie with a director that I've worked with before and I just couldn't do it, because I felt ultimately, as flattered as I was to do this big European film, I couldn't do it because of the way it portrayed women. I wouldn't have done that 10 years ago, or even five years ago."

As for her private life, she says that will remain private, although she did correct an audience member at an "In Conversation" session who called her "Mrs." And then, more candidly, she revealed: "You know the price that you pay – not all actors, but this actor – is that I've been very lonely a lot in my life. I've had two marriages and I loved both my husbands very much, but I didn't see very much of them. [The length of my work days] is really hard on relationships. You never see anybody... And that's a very tough thing for a woman.

"I've always wanted to have children. That never happened. And I thought, "Well, I'll do it next year. I'll do it after this film. And then it was 'oh, I'm single'. There is this feeling that you give up a lot on this job, but you get a lot back, too. Luckily I have great friends and I have found a tremendous amount of happiness in mentoring young actors. They're like my kids. Dustin Ingram, our leading man in Monica Velour, he's like my boy."

But work is more than fulfilling the actress. We are not likely to see Cattrall release another book, though. She has written three books, two about sex while the third, Being a Girl, was for young women. "I find writing a very lonely experience," she says. "It's like a book report that never ends. So I don't think I could write another book."

'Meet Monica Velour' is released on DVD on 4 July

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