Michael Patrick King - 'Sex and the City took sex out the shadows'

As Carrie and co return for more adventures in Sex and City 2, the film's director, Michael Patrick King, tells Gill Pringle why he understands what women want

"Let there be no mistake," says Sex and the City 2's producer/director/writer Michael Patrick King. "A gay man alone could never begin to replicate the inner workings of the female mind. There are thousands of gay men who couldn't write these women; its all about the female view of the world, channelled through these characters."

Reprising his triple-threat role in the first big screen version of the award-winning TV series – which surprised cynics by taking in $415m at the global box office two years ago – King aims to beat that record with his much-heralded sequel.

Based, in part, on journalist Candace Bushnell's book of the same name – compiled from her columns in the New York Observer – TV producer Darren Star adapted her work into one of HBO's most successful TV series, broadcasting 94 episodes between 1994 and 2004.

Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw, she weekly shared her sexual frustrations and fantasies – along with those of her three best friends, Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) – with millions of ardent viewers across the globe. During the course of six seasons, Sex and the City would be nominated for more than 50 Emmy awards, winning seven times.

A tough act to follow? "There's always pressure," concedes openly gay scribe King, 55, who co-wrote all the SATC season finales and premieres since the second season as well as directing both big screen outings. "Anytime you create a new artistic, anything, there's pressure. Because one of my rules when I did the series, and I maintained it on this movie, was never to repeat a story. I try not to repeat an emotion. I want it all to be new for the viewers and to challenge myself as a writer. But because these characters are so vibrant, both to me and to people around the world who still follow their lives, it's easy to get lost in 'What would they do?' If I'm proud of anything, then it's the fact that we took sex out of the shadows where it was a dirty secret, and made it all pink and fuzzy like a good bottle of champagne.

"My female writers have always been my backbone. I had a writing room of six women for five years so I know what women do. Cultivated by me, by the way!" laughs the former stand-up comedian who previously worked on fem-coms Murphy Brown, Cybill, Will & Grace and post-Friends sitcom, The Comeback.

"The amazing thing about women is that they really will reveal everything about who they are to you. They're very present in their emotions and very available and the fun entry place for SATC was, as much as for those four female characters when it begun, that the real voice I found interesting was the single girl voice; the idea that there's a belief that if you're not married or you don't have children, that you're a leper. So any time you get to write the underdog as your main energy, it's really exciting. I was actually raised with three sisters, and I never got the line that girls were less than men or anything so it was very easy for me to just sort of listen and, like any writer, you have a series of variables and you try to put them in play. So it's really not just about hiring women, it's about hiring writers, and it's not about being a gay man who writes for women because they simply can't do what these women do; Oh, you have that! You're the one that goes on dates that go wrong and is hilarious about it – I'm hiring you. And you're the one that doesn't want to get married – I'm hiring you! And they were also not just women – they were really wonderful writers. I'm the only male writer on the team. I'm not a doctor, but I don't have to be to write an emergency-room scene. But I really enjoy women, and I totally understand and applaud the diversity that they have in terms of their emotions, intellects, vulnerability and strength."

While SATC is cherished by both women and gay men alike, King gets to explore one of his pet topics in the sequel, scripting the same-sex marriage of the TV series' pivotal gay characters Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marantino (Mario Cantone). Co-starring with the Cosmo-loving ladies are familiar faces David Eigenberg, Evan Handler and Jason Lewis while "surprise" guest stars include Miley Cyrus, Penélope Cruz and Liza Minnelli.

"It's interesting because Penelope said to me, 'I've seen that first movie 15 times! I put it on when I want to feel happy and I put it on when I want to feel sad,'" he says, in a spot-on imitation of her sex-siren Spanish accent "Penelope is a devoted follower of those girls and Mr Big, so I needed a part and I thought, 'Who better to play that part than Penelope?' But Penelope didn't approach me – I went after her. She's not playing herself whereas we also have Liza Minnelli who is playing herself and Miley Cyrus who also plays herself," says King talking in Las Vegas where SATC 2 is being fêted by North American cinema owners.

Shot between New York and Morocco – doubling for Abu Dhabi – SATC fans will once again be torn between Carrie's Mr Big, played by Chris Noth, and John Corbett's Aidan.

In an attempt to discover what happens after "I do" – Carrie rounds up the girls for a trip to Abu Dhabi where she unexpectedly bumps into former flame Aidan – not that Mr Big is exactly innocent as the trailer shows him enraptured by the charms of Penélope Cruz. Charlotte now has two kids while Miranda spends more time with her BlackBerrry than with Steve. Samantha is feeling her age, suffering a hot flush while riding a camel.

"I was very aware of making this film during a time of economic downturn," says King.

"So I thought, 'OK, it's a depression. In the Great Depression, what did people do? What did people need?' And I thought, extravagance. Let's make this a grand road movie, using a big vacation as a plot device to be able to have the girls in a setting where you can still be extravagant. We even got to film on the same dunes where they shot Lawrence of Arabia. I really wanted to be this Scheherazade Middle East adventure. And I got it.

"Also it was fun to take these four liberated American women with the name 'sex' in the title and bring them to the Middle East. The idea of Samantha, a woman who is sexually liberated beyond anyone's expectation, in the Middle East?! What's more delicious than that?" enthuses King, the Catholic son of a janitor and Krispy Kreme worker.

With a staggering $10m costume budget on the film, King's version of "depression" is slightly skew: "Well, I always said, nobody wants to see Carrie Bradshaw selling apples under a bridge. That would be just depressing. My job is to take the audience on a fun thing and have them feel good. There is always, always going to be style and it's filled with everything people want. It's not like, 'Oh, I'm depressed, they're wearing brown'. No. There's no reason to do Sex and the City if it's not going to be everything Sex and the City is, which is vibrant emotions, comedy, drama... and also, style.

"I wanted to use everything that I know the fans enjoy including bringing back Carrie's ex, Aidan. I always felt that women responded to him so well. If I talk to a woman for more than five minutes I can tell you exactly whether she's an Aidan girl or a Mr Big girl. Aidan girls are more interested in nurturing relationships and building a nest while Mr Big girls are more about show and having fun."

But don't expect all the girls to find "happy every after", he warns. "I actually feel that the reason why the audience still follows these characters is because their lives do reflect the people who watch the show or the movie. There's a natural evolution in life, based on society – the great enemy, society! – where some women get married and some have kids and some don't. And because there's four of them, it's my job to never have to say that it's the journey to be married; it's the journey to be married with children, or it's the journey to be single. There will never ever be a moment where all four of the SATC girls are married.

"The interesting theme of the sequel is to explore the idea of tradition. Even in our current-day society, women's roles are still divined by tradition. I always look for: 'What's the thing that needs to be said?' like what's the balm for the horse that is still saying – be this way, be that way – and I go after that. But within these four women's lives, there's so much trust and caring for each other. It's really about trusting that where you are in your life is the right place for you. But that's a lot of work – especially when you're married or in a relationship – people rarely get chance to do that after happily ever after," he says.

For a franchise synonymous with Manhattan, Sarah Jessica Parker told Entertainment Weekly of her joy at the relative anonymity of an eight-week shoot in Morocco. Dogged by paparazzi during the first film, she said: "To not have to hide an actor or a story line or a costume – it was amazing. Nobody was interested. Nobody."

If it's the common consensus that there's no decent roles for women over 40, then SATC surely disproves the theory: Parker and Davis are both 45 while Cattrall is 53 and Nixon, the youngest, at 44.

"We can't deny their years and we don't try to," says King. "One of the great gifts of Sex and the City is that it's been able to evolve. So when the girls were 34, they were 34. And now that Kim is 53, then Samantha is 53. So there's an enormous power in not trying to hide anything. And there's a great story there for women who are in that part of their life, to reflect. For me, it's just about keeping it real and current. And what's great about the series in a very bizarre way – almost like a magic trick – is that girls are still watching the DVDs who are 20, and think that Samantha is their friend. So there's this whole evolution and the girls are still as gorgeous as they ever were."

Ask him about the possibility of a SATC 3, he jokes: "I have no idea. When I did the first movie, I didn't even think about SATC 2. When I'm actually having sex – like I am right now, just finishing having sex, I always like to think about the sex I'm actually finishing. If I was to think ahead, it would just be rude! It would be rude to my current movie."

'Sex and the City 2' is released on 28 May

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project