Two hours from the hustle of New York, in a prim, picket-fenced little village, lives one of the most sexually satisfied women in America. Kim Cattrall – the lucky lady in question – is so happy with her husband's lovemaking that she has penned a book with him, entitled Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm, to help those less fortunate in the bedroom department. If it sounds like the sort of thing her bed-hopping character Samantha, from Sex and the City, might do, Cattrall doesn't care. In fact, she's delighted about the project.
"People were reaching out to me in a profound way," says the earnest, breathy star as we sit in a quaint restaurant in East Hampton. "They would talk to me about a storyline from the show that had also happened to them – most frequently the gherkin-penis episode." She looks across the table conspiratorially. "Anyway, mostly they wanted to share sexually dissatisfying scenarios. I've been in the same boat, off and on, over the years: it's so unfulfilling. So I saw a possibility to help people – techniques men and women might want to know about. And I thought, why don't we put something in the world that is real and truthful?"
While it's hard to imagine something similar on this side of the pond, a book of Cattrall's sex tips does sound titillating. Certainly her candour is refreshing, not least because, despite the LA-shrink speak (she's been in therapy on and off since her twenties), she seems sincere about helping other people's dull old love lives.
In fact, for Cattrall, sex is a hot topic. "I'm often asked, how is Samantha different to you?" she whispers, eyes twinkling over her roasted salmon, "and the answer's very simple. Basically, I have a much better sex life." Given that Samantha has romped her way through at least 55 men in 60 episodes, this is a boast indeed. Yet Cattrall does seem genuinely liberated. For starters, she and her husband are both big fans of Viagra. "Oh, yes! Yes! It's fantastic!" she enthuses. "It does the same thing for the clitoris as for the penis. I mean, our erection is not as big or anything but still, I think some women don't realise how powerful the clitoris is."
It was Cattrall's openness about taking Viagra that inspired the Sex and the City writers to include it in a storyline, but she insists that any parallels between Kim and Sam end there. "The underbelly to Samantha's conquests is insecurity. She doesn't have love or contentment. All she has is the hunt. I don't live like that."
Cattrall's lifestyle, in fact, couldn't be further from Samantha's. Married since 1998 to her third husband, the audio executive Mark Levinson (her first marriage was to a Canadian writer at 19, her second to a German architect during her twenties), Cattrall, 45, and Levinson, 55, live most of the year in a one-bedroom cottage in the seaside celeb-haven of East Hampton, with their coterie of animals and a garden that Cattrall tends with maniacal passion (don't get her started on drainage). Given the size of some of the homes in the area, the Cattrall residence is modesty itself, a "little cave" where she tries to live as normally as possible.
This lack of Hollywood showiness also extends to Cattrall's appearance. When she walks into the restaurant, she is almost unrecognisable. Her image as sexy vamp, borne out over 20 years in roles such as the lusty gym instructor in Porky's, Police Academy's foxy cadet, Spock's squeeze in Star Trek VI, Andrew McCarthy's Mannequin and Tom Hanks' wife in Bonfire of the Vanities, is a far cry from the woman sitting across the table. Today, Cattrall couldn't care less about how she looks. In fact, she is in what is best described as "Sunday hangover-wear" – an oversized brown chunky-knit cardie, a pair of jeans, Nikes and T-shirt, with a little Gap bag. In contrast to the photoshoot in LA, where, glammed up and preening, she frequently complained to the photographer that she felt uneasy, today Cattrall seems relaxed, sweet and incredibly down to earth.
She is also completely make-up free and her blonde hair, going dark at the roots, hasn't seen a hairdresser or stylist for weeks. Yet she still looks gorgeous. She's slim, too, but (praise be!) doesn't seem transfixed by her weight, even eating a dripping chocolate pudding at lunch. "I lost 15lb during the first series of Sex and the City," she confides, "but I didn't look good, especially over my ribs. So now I just eat healthily and keep to about 130lb [about nine stone]."
Cattrall has the kind of Zen composure you would think impossible for an American actress in her mid-forties. "If I don't have to be in make-up at 6am, then I'd prefer not to," she smiles. "That's just where I am in my life. I'm in my forties and I'm becoming much more at ease with who I am. But it's been an interesting journey for me – to be myself without the glitter."
By her own admission, Cattrall chased stardom and the buzz of big cities from an early age. In search of a better life, her parents emigrated from Liverpool to Canada in the 1950s, when Kim was three months old, and settled in a small lumber town near Vancouver. Cattrall's talent for performing showed early; she read Shakespeare in primary school and won local drama competitions. When her mother went to visit her family in Liverpool, the 11-year-old Kim went with her and stayed for the next year with her Aunt Mai, an elocutionist who introduced her to theatre. By 16, Cattrall had secured a scholarship to the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Two years later, she'd made it to Hollywood. It took Sex and the City to lure Cattrall back to live in New York. Yet she almost didn't take the part.
"I turned it down time and time again, because I was in the middle of breaking up a three-year relationship with my boyfriend [the Murder One actor Daniel Benzali] and thought, you know, I could do without this right now." Fortunately Darren Star, the producer of Sex and the City, was persistent, still pursuing Cattrall three weeks before the series was due to start, even though another actress had been hired for the role. Eventually, Cattrall capitulated, and the rest is television history. Now in its fourth series, the Emmy-winning show is glittering high comedy – Cattrall and gal pals negotiating Manhattan's singles scene, posing in the latest prét-à-porter, cocktails permanently in hand.
Unlike her character, however, Cattrall is crazy about just one man. She describes her husband as "the biggest passion in [her] life". "I know who Mark is and I can rely on him," she says. "He's the first man I've been with who's in touch with his feminine side. He loves design, he likes to cook and pick beautiful materials for our bedsheets, things like that. He's very sensual, very bright."
They met in the Blue Note in Greenwich Village when Cattrall, alone one night, went along to listen to the jazz (it's a love the couple share). Levinson made his move, and they ended up talking until 7am. "We spent a year going back and forth and getting to know each other's worlds. My world in LA was more of a career world; I had relationships that had been very disappointing and a career that was ultimately unsatisfying – both in terms of the kind of roles I was being called for and the roles I was taking."
What's more, the older Cattrall got, the less LA seemed to like her. "I didn't want to spend my forties in that city," she says, shaking her head. "When I got to my middle thirties the amount of auditions I went in for was cut in half. That's the best thing about playing Samantha; at 45 I'm still considered desirable." Was she ever tempted to join LA's cut-and-paste brigade? "I don't think the answer is plastic surgery," she says. "There comes a point where you have to age gracefully. I see women my age, like Melanie Griffith, who have had surgery, but I don't want ever to look at myself and see the Joker from Batman staring back at me. You have to make yourself look your best, but when you start to resemble an alien... People don't know when to stop."
As we leave the restaurant, Cattrall turns around. "Do you want me to give you a lift around East Hampton?" she asks. We drive beside the central stream that runs parallel to the main street, beyond the row of houses "where Spielberg and the seriously rich people live," past immaculate rows of shops. It feels surreal, like a toy town – a place where nothing ever happens. Cattrall, one suspects, loves it for that reason. Sex and the City and New York are kept firmly at arm's length. "You know my perfect day?" she says as she drops me on the high street. "I get up about 8.30am and walk my dogs. Mark and I have breakfast together. I spend some time in my garden, eat lunch, read, and then we snuggle up and watch a great film. Sounds pretty good to me." But wait. Surely she's forgotten something? "Then we have great sex," she laughs, almost to herself.
The new series of 'Sex and the City' begins tomorrow at 10pm on Channel 4. The full version of this article appears in the latest issue of 'Red' magazine, which is out nowReuse content