As if being married to Ferris Bueller isn't enough, Sarah Jessica Parker is an icon all her own, thanks to Sex and the City her indelible fashion/love victim Carrie Bradshaw. With a mantlepiece is laden with Emmys and Golden Globes, now comes the next phase in her career. Her first lead role is in the Christmas comedy The Family Stone, starring Diane Keaton as her prospective mother-in-law, Dermot Mulroney her fiance and Claire Danes her sister. And this is only the first of five films Parker is working on...
You come from a family even bigger than the Stones. What are your holidays like?
With a total of seven sisters, brothers and half sisters and brothers, it's tough for us all to get together. We are not particularly religious, so we just see it as a wonderful excuse to be together and relax in each others' company. Now we all have partners and children so the house is even more packed. Everyone helps out with the dinner and gets stuck in. It is crazy, but somehow amazingly peaceful. I can only say that to me it is a time when I can finally relax.
In this film your character, Meredith, meets her fianceís family for the first time. What was it like meeting your husband Matthew Broderickís family?
I was lucky because I knew Matthewís family very well before we started dating. He was a good friend of one of my brothers. I actually met his family before I had met him. So I was never in that terrifying position of being the new person. Meredithís situation is slightly different because of her poor people skills and inability to know when to stop talking. I think it takes two to be in Meredithís situation. The Stones could have thrown her a lifeline. They could see how uncomfortable she was with those surroundings. I have never seen anyone as socially awkward as her though.
Do you worry that people still think of you as Carrie Bradshaw?
Perhaps this is just me being naive, but I honestly never think about it. It doesnít even occur to me. Carrie definitely left a vivid imprint on those who loved her. She wasnít a perfect heroine and I think that was my salvation in a lot of ways. She was unpredictable, so people didnít always know her next move. I was a working actor for years in films like Honeymoon in Vegas, Ed Wood and The First Wives Club, before I played Carrie. She was an extraordinary character to play for so long, but I still pursue my career in the way that I always did. I still look for interesting characters and stories.
Why did you want to become an actress?
The arts were a big part of my childhood. We went to the theatre and opera a lot as a family. We were not at all wealthy, but it was at a time when the arts were publicly funded and there were free tickets available. For someone like myself who wasnít that academically inclined, it was a great escape. For some reason when I was quite young I began to read about castings in the newspaper and wanting to go to to them. I suppose I found the whole thing quite magical at that age. So I started auditioning, because I didnít see any reason not to. We are not particularly confident or ambitious people in my family, but there were a lot of us in the house and it was a great escape for me. I found it a way to distinguish myself from seven other siblings. I became less interested in school. I still went, but I didnít choose to develop any other skills apart from drama. In the end I didnít really have any other choice.
Before Sex and the City you were a film actress. How was it moving into a TV series?
It was terrifying. At first I thought I had made a terrible mistake. I showed the script to everyone I knew. My family, Matthew and my agent all told me to go for it. I recognised straight away that she was a very interesting character and I thought the pilot showed so much promise for a great story. My biggest fear was being shackled to the same thing for a really long time and being unhappy with it. I started to think, what can I possibly do to get out of this? I didnít care if I ended up broke and on the street, I wasnít going to do it.
Why did you change your mind?
The people I love talked me through my fear. I had this wonderful life in New York at the time, I was in the theatre and movies and in my free time I saw my friends. I didnít want anything to change. But they put my mind at rest and somehow managed to get me to the set on the first day of shooting. I never looked back from that moment. It was the happiest place I could have been for that long. With the exception of my son being born, it was the happiest time of my life.
There were some frank scenesin that series.
I was kissing a lot of men a lot of the time. Then I had to go home to my husband and it was strange sometimes. I had to do it though, it was in my contract. I was forced to kiss all of those men! Matthew was okay about it though. There hasnít been any post-traumatic stress - yet.
How did Matthew feel about the sex scenes?
The thing that a lot of people didnít realise about Carrie was that she didnít do that stuff. I didnít have bad language or big sex scenes, thatís what people just think they remember. People think they have seen me with my clothes off, but they never did. It was a provocative title that dealt with controversial issues, and people recall things that didnít happen. Even a well-known actor, who I met socially, said to me: ĎI didnít recognise you with your clothes on.í But my clothes were never off. I also donít actually drink at all. I just donít like the taste of it. Strangers buy me Cosmopolitans when they see me out, thinking I am like Carrie. I just have to pretend to take a sip and then give it to a friend.
So when your character gets drunk and dances in The Family Stone, you didnít know how she felt?
I had no idea. In fact, that particular scene was the hardest Iíve ever done. I donít dance in real life. I donít go to clubs or dance at parties. I am happy that everyone else does and I love watching. So that piece of acting was really embarrassing.
Do you have any bad habits?
I live a very clean lifestyle actually, I have never done more than smoke a cigarette in my life. The first time I saw someone take drugs was a couple of years ago. I was stunned. I was at a party and had walked into a bathroom by mistake. The moment I saw what was happening I turned on my heel and went. I was quite scared actually, I left very quickly. I know nothing about that sort of thing, it is just not a circle I travel in.
You celebrated your 40th birthday this year. Did it change you at all?
I was on set of The Family Stone on my birthday. It was a bit of a strange day for me. I remember at one point looking over at Clare Danes and thinking, íOh my god, you're only 26!í That is when I realised I was 40. Apart from little things like that it hasnít really made any difference to me or my career.
How do you feel about being the mother of a 2-year-old son?
Becoming a mother is a complete life change. You suddenly have to think about someone else all the time - and that can be tough for an actress. My little boy who relies on me for everything and it is such a responsibility. But I love my life. I love having having this little boy to answer to and a husband to care about. It is a wonderful life which I wouldnít ever want to change.
THANKS TO VICTORIA COX AT FOX, DEC.05
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