Hello summer, you don’t stand a chance. The biggest movie of the year is about to hit Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know -- "Sex and the City 2" has more sparkle than Tiffany’s; it’s a new (and vintage) Carrie Bradshaw adventure and its guaranteed to be the magic carpet ride of summer 2010.
Irish American writer, producer and director Michael Patrick King, 53, is the man at the film’s helm once again, just as he was for the iconic show’s run on HBO. He’s the Scranton, Pennsylvania boy who -- just like Carrie -- arrived on this mythical island one day in the 1980s determined to be a writer. Like Carrie he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
That happy coincidence -- between King’s facts and Carrie’s fiction -- is what makes him the ideal writer for the movie. He just gets Carries journey in his bones.
King is also one of three famous Irish Americans (including Vice President Joe Biden and playwright Jason Miller) who grew up in the hardscrabble Scranton neighborhood before he left to make his fortune in the big city.
“Joe Biden did very well,” King tells the Irish Voice with a knowing laugh. “We have almost the same job wouldn’t you say? He’s the vice president of the country and I am the vice president of sex.”
Before his dizzying success (King is now a co-producer of the multi-million dollar Sex and the City franchise) he worked for years, decades actually, as a humble waiter in just about every greasy spoon restaurant in Manhattan.
It was his sheer determination that finally paid off, but it was also his talent at storytelling, which he attributes to his Irish background, and the Irish women he grew up around.
“My family is Irish on all sides. These are the names in my family -- King, Fitzsimmons, Judge and O’Malley,” says King.
“My grandparents actually came from Ireland, and I have three sisters, Eileen, Mary Ellen and Patty. The youngest one married a man named Cook. She went from a King to a Cook!”
Then King erupts with laughter. “My mother is a very loving woman and a great storyteller, and I think I get the ability to hold a room’s attention from the way she used to tell me stories.
“What I also get from my Irish background is an amazing sort of emotional depth and feeling. I have great empathy and I also have the Irish thing of understanding the balance between a laugh and cry, you know?
“I don’t want just the comedy or just the tear. If it’s a funny moment I want it to be real. I think that balancing act is a very Irish trait.”
Of course Sex and the City isn’t just a TV show or a series of films. It’s a massive worldwide phenomenon, and no one knows this better than King himself.
“I’m very blessed to be the antenna that’s allowed to tell this story, and I think that I’m partly the guy who can write this because of being Irish,” King reckons.
“I think it’s partly because I was raised in a family of Irish women. I mean, what could be more Irish than a bunch of strong women getting together to laugh and cry at the adventure of life?”
King was scheduled to talk to the Irish Voice two weekends ago at the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel in midtown, but in a carefully planned attempt to throw the paparazzi that haunt his cast’s every footstep, his publicists rescheduled in favor of one of one of the movie’s locations -- Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue.
As the unsuspecting public shopped on a gorgeous May morning the entire second floor of Bergdorf’s was quietly sealed off, and suddenly rows and rows of Armani suited male models began working a security detail, standing behind black ropes and redirecting anyone who dared to even think about having a look.
To say that the setting for our interview with Michael Patrick King was impressive is an understatement. You have never seen glamour like it in your life.
The second floor at Bergdorf’s is already one of the most important fashion epicenters in the world, but with the arrival of Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis it instantly became the world’s fashion center. All together, in person, these women are a force to be reckoned with.
The ladies have the look, but King is the storyteller and he has a set of rules about how and where he wants the girls to be each time.
“One of my rules with 'Sex and the City' is that I always make sure that I don’t repeat myself. I knew I wanted the second movie to be completely different than the first,” he said.
“I wanted it to be more of a party, a big extravaganza. I wanted to embrace the word sequel and go bigger.”
The first scene King came up explored tradition and how even today, in a cosmopolitan city like New York, the four women (and all women) are still struggling with traditional roles and expectations.
As the film opens Carrie Bradshaw is deciding how to be a wife. She’s also starting to feel her identity swamped by being Mrs. “Big” John Preston, and by the tradition and expectation that comes with it.
“It’s really the same spark of DNA in 'Sex and the City,' whether it’s the television show or the movie. The message has been consistent -- don’t lose your own individual voice. Even if you choose to be in a couple, don’t lose your voice,” King says.
To make his point, King unveils one of the most over the top weddings in cinema history, between former rivals and polar opposites Stanford Blatch, Carrie’s gay best friend, and Anthony Marantino, Charlotte’s gay best friend.
“I wanted it to be the most traditional over the top big romantic MGM musical of a wedding, but instead of a bride and a groom I wanted it to be two grooms,” says King.
“I thought it would be a fun way to start the movie, sort of in that 1930s screwball comedy feel. They say opposites attract and Anthony is uncomfortable with the tradition of it all, so he fights it until he makes his vows.”
There’s a lot about personal liberation in this movie, King says.
“Even today women have to remember that they have to roar a little bit, whether it’s at a boss or society, or at the way society is telling Samantha to age. I mean, she’s going through the change and she’s expected to change, and you know that’s the one thing Samantha will never do,” says King.
All the girls are in touch with who they are, and that sends a powerful signal to the audience.
“That message is true for all the Carries, all the Mirandas, all the Charlottes and even all the Mr. Bigs. Don’t get trapped yourself in what a traditional man or husband is supposed to do, or how they’re supposed to act after a difficult mistake is made,” says King.
“Think about who you’re with and who you are, and not what everybody else thinks you should do.”
When the show started back in 1998 the four BFFs were in their thirties with society telling them if they didn’t have a boyfriend or a husband soon, they were going to be social lepers.
“That really resonated with my own outsider point of view,” says King (who’s gay and in a long term relationship). “I think that the gay element is really just people who have to create their own life because society doesn’t really have a role for them to fit into. They relate to the struggle of these girls as individuals.”
But King is no fool. He deliberately put things into this movie for straight men to enjoy.
First and foremost he’s included a remarkably buxom Irish nanny (Alice Eve). That, he says, is for the men who’ve been dragged to the cinema by their girlfriends or wives.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a mother, as Charlotte is at the top of the movie, I thought it would be fun to introduce a nuclear bomb of a gorgeous Irish nanny,” says King.
“Samantha recognizes her as a threat, and the minute she says so she unravels a whole paranoia in Charlotte about the strength of her own marriage. Sometimes close friends can do that without intending to.”
The Irish nanny comes with a jaunty Irish score.
“We worked so hard on the Irish music. It took us ages to get it right but I knew exactly what I wanted,” says King.
“I’m Irish American and it’s in my DNA. I would tell them it’s not light enough, it’s not complicated enough, it doesn’t have enough humor in it, where’s the penny whistle, where’s the horn, go back and do it again.
“We worked harder on that Irish music for the nanny to appear because I wanted it to be too big and yet authentic. The first time we see her it’s against a beautiful green lawn, so its like somebody’s coming in from Ireland.”
The nanny is a classic 'Sex and the City' ploy. People look at her and judge her as a threat, but in reality she’s got a heart of gold. Look again, the film reminds us, look again.
“I knew this film was going to be about evolution, who Carrie was in the past, who’s she’s maybe worried about becoming now, and I knew that once I opened the door to the past that the big significant person who would be standing in that door was Aidan Shaw,” says King, referring to Carrie’s great other love, former fiancé Aidan.
Because the girls are in a faraway magical place, King came up with the idea of reintroducing Aidan because Carrie at that point in the movie is really trying to reclaim who she was -- and there he is. It’s a dramatic twist that fan favorite John Corbett as Aidan plays flawlessly.
“I would have only brought him in knowing full well that Chris Noth as Mr. Big was already on very firm, strong ground in the movie,” says King.
“I made a choice to get the four girls away from the men and the babies. So suddenly even though they’re married, it’s the four girls from the series that we all loved so much. They’re out, they’re loose and they’re together.
“It was an effort to see them together, and people have said it’s like vintage and current, like back to what it was, and also great if you’ve never seen it before. I think we’ve captured the best of both worlds.”
'Sex and the City 2' opens nationwide on Thursday, May 27.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”