King, 53, moved to New York as a 20-year-old college dropout in order to pursue an acting career. When that didn’t pan out, he started doing stand-up, eventually working the comedy club circuit alongside Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld. After a young HBO executive named Carolyn Strauss caught his act, she encouraged him to write sitcom scripts for the fledgling Comedy Central. That eventually led to a job on Murphy Brown. “I joined the show the year the Dan Quayle thing happened,” says King, referring to the then vice president’s 1992 condemnation of Brown’s single-parent lifestyle. “It was a smart, smart place. I remember staying up at night thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my mind to think faster.’”
In 1997, after Murphy Brown had ended, Strauss came calling again, this time recruiting King for Sex and the City, which was just getting off the ground. King instantly felt comfortable with the raunchy subject matter, but the saltier bits of the show came as a shock to his conservative Irish Catholic mother, who complained that one episode left her so embarrassed that she couldn’t even watch it in front of the dog. “And the dog’s a girl!” she added.
Fortunately, the rest of the world was less squeamish: The series won 11 Emmys and eight Golden Globes and was an unqualified international hit. But by 2004 the buzz had dimmed a bit. Samantha was on the mend from breast cancer, Miranda was sponge-bathing her senile mother-in-law, and Carrie was ending a puzzling love affair with Mikhail Baryshnikov to pick up with Mr. Big—again. It seemed that the time had come for the ladies of Sex and the City to hang up their Manolos and for Kim Cattrall, who had spent much of the series naked, to put on some clothes. “When Michael and I decided to end the show, we thought we had told the best stories we could,” says Sarah Jessica Parker. “If he didn’t think he could make the show great anymore, I didn’t want to do it.”
But King had a few Sex stories left in him after all. While he and Parker were in Paris filming the series finale, they started talking about the possibility of doing a full-length feature, and King wrote an outline. “It was a romp,” remembers Parker. “It reminded me of one of those Bob Hope–Bing Crosby buddy movies.”
The film, however, hit some snags: Contract negotiations with the cast fell through, and rumors of tension (mainly that Cattrall wasn’t cooperating) were all over the gossip columns. King claims such stories were “blown up in the press beyond belief” but does admit that “the first time around, Kim said, ‘I don’t know if I want to be Samantha again right now.’”