It’s been said that New York was so essential to Sex and the City that it functioned as the HBO megahit’s fifth lead character. If that’s true, then Scranton, Pennsylvania, hometown of the show’s executive producer, Michael Patrick King, also deserves a spot on the credits list. As a boy, King had the unusual hobby of staging elaborate theatrical productions in his front yard. “I’d cast all of the neighborhood girls in these shows,” he says. “My mom would be leaving the house and she’d say, ‘Don’t you pull out all of the old dresses in the attic and put on a show again!’ And the door would close, and that’s exactly what I’d do. The show was calling me!”
Those neighborhood girls didn’t know it back then, but even without the pink cocktails and designer wardrobes, they were King’s prototypes for Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. And four years after the TV version’s series finale, King is bringing the ladies back. The movie version of Sex and the City, which he wrote and directed, hits theaters in May.
“In the beginning, it was Darren and I in the room, saying things like ‘What if she said, ‘Up the butt’?” says King, recalling his earliest Sex and the City brainstorming sessions with the show’s creator, Darren Star. “‘Mrs. Up-the-Butt!’ When I wrote that, I was like, ‘Nobody ever wrote lines like this.’ There was no template for the series, and there isn’t one for the movie, either.”
Sex and the City is not, of course, the first television show to make the jump to the big screen, but most of the others have been lowbrow comedies (think Starsky & Hutch) or nostalgic spoofs (The Brady Bunch). “I guess The X-Files is the only one with the original cast, but how do you compare this with that?” says King, a fit, salt-and-pepper-haired extrovert who lives in Los Angeles with his boyfriend of six years.
In this case, lack of precedent seems only to have increased expectations. Gossip blogs tipped the public off about the film’s location schedule and hundreds of fans showed up to watch shoots. Add to that the high financial hopes—DVDs of the series have netted more than $300 million—and the fact that this is King’s first feature film, and the stakes couldn’t be much higher. “The first-time director thing is just another label somebody puts on you,” says King, who directed 10 episodes of the show and wrote 16 of them. “The real pressure, for me, is I have these four characters that people care about and know so well. There’s a lot of expectation about what these women should be doing.”