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Interview: Sarah Jessica Parker for "Failure to Launch"

By Paul Fischer Thursday March 9th 2006 03:15AM
Sarah Jessica Parker  for "Failure to Launch"

When it comes to sex, there's life after it, at least where Sarah Jessica Parker is concerned. Looking radiant and in good humour, Ms Parker is having quite the time of it on the big and small screens, first starring in the new romantic comedy Failure to Launch, then there's her deal with HBO out of which she at least gets a new BlackBerry. It's a wonderful life, as she explains to Paul Fischer.

Question: WHEN A ROMANTIC COMEDY COMES YOUR WAY YOU IMMEDIATELY LOOK AT IT TO SEE WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS NO HINT OF MISS BRADSHAW IN THERE, IN THE CHARACTER

Parker: It's not as kind of sweeping and arbitrary, like, 'Is it...?' I pursue my career in the same fashion I always have which is, 'What is interesting to me? What is different? How does this fit into what I'm doing now and what I'm to do in the future? And what are they ingredients? Who are I working with, who's directing it, who's producing it? Why do they want to make this? What's interesting, what's potentially interesting about this story?' Look, when it's glaringly obvious that it is some redux of a show that I was a part of it's not interesting at all at all. It takes no energy to decide to not do what is comfortable and often more lucrative than other things. What's interesting to me is trying to make good choices and trying to work with really good people. Does it always work out? No. But you just kind of do the best with the options you have. I mean, that's the best that I can do.

Question: DO YOU RELATE TO THIS GIRL?

Parker: No. I don't relate to her at all. I mean, she seems to like food a lot. I mean, I like that about her. Honestly, like that was pretty much it. But I don't have to -- that's much more interesting to me, to not to relate to somebody. Meredith Morton (in The Family Stone), I didn't relate to at all. The movie (Spinning into Butter) I did right after this is someone whose life is strikingly unfamiliar to me.

Question: WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS FILM THAT BROUGHT YOU INTO IT?

Parker: Well, the first time that I had heard about it was when I went to meet with one of the big chiefs at Paramount and at that point there was no first draft even of the script. It was an idea based on this article and oddly enough I had seen the '60 Minutes' piece a few years before about this phenomenon in Italy that really wasn't new, but it'd just been spotlighted in some way. And it seemed funny to me. I mean, at the time, I don't know, it just seemed like well that's an interesting idea - a man living at home past what's considered an appropriate age. I've known Scott Rudin forever and I've made a couple of movies with him, and there were just things about it, you know - this kind of surface, easy-breezy quality she possessed, this strange idea for a business model, for a vocation, her clever attempts at deflecting from her own lack of romance in her life. And just frankly, this idea of a big, lush, decadent schedule of a romantic comedy. A big studio picture. They don't make these very much anymore. They really don't and certainly not with people our age in them. I don't know. It seemed perfect to me. 'Family Stone' and 'Failure to Launch' and 'Spinning Into Butter.' What more can an actor ask for? I get to dabble in a little of each.

Question: YOU SAID YOUR AGE. WHAT AGE ARE YOU PLAYING IN THE FILM?

Parker: You know, that's a good question. Mid-thirties [Laughs]. Mid-thirties. What's so funny now is that any time I describe something to my friends they're always like 'What is it about?' I go, 'Well, it's about this girl,' and I'm like 'woman,' because I still say girl and I know it's not right cause someone my age. But I still say girl.

Question: What's the age of the voice in your head?

Parker: I would say that it's about 34. I mean, my voice is terrible. When I hear it back it's much higher than I think it is when I hear it. I think that my voice has more resonance to it. I just wish it did. I think I wish I had Patty Clarkson's voice. You know how hers is like whiskey and like southern, but it's not. She's got the voice of like a seven-year-old all the time.

Question : WHAT'S THE EMOTIONAL VOICE THAT YOU HEAR, THE AGE OF THE PERSON IN OUR HEAD?

Parker: You mean on a daily basis?

Question: YEAH.

Parker: I think it's exactly who I am.

Question: REALLY?

Parker: And it's a great comfort to actually know who you are. Like I have no delusions. I feel very lucky that I recognize the years and what you get from it. So I feel like I'm the voice of a 40-year-old. Whatever 40 means to me - whatever. I don't know.

Question: YOU'RE NOT FORTY?

Parker: Yeah, I am. I'm about to be 41.

Question: I THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE EARLY THIRTIES.

Parker: Ah, come on dude. We'll have a one on one later [Laughs].

Question: WHEN DID YOU LEAVE HOME?

Parker: Seventeen. All my siblings were.

Question: YOUR MOTHER PUSHED YOU OUT?

Parker: She didn't. She was really conflicted. I think she did what every kind of thinking person does, which is as hard as it was to let us go, she knew it was good for us. You know, that's the age most kids go off to college and those of us who didn't go to college went off to pursue our work. I think my mother did a lot of things right. I'm sure she made a lot of crazy decisions, too, but I really like the way she encouraged our independence and I think that it's probably the best thing for a child. We could always come home. We always brought our laundry home. She still made food for us and brought it into the city. She was there, but she wanted us to be independent thinking people and I think it served us well.

Question: DO YOU THINK THAT LEAVING 'SEX AND THE CITY' WAS LIKE LEAVING THE NEST FOR YOU? WHAT WAS IT SEVEN YEARS?

Parker: Seven years. [Laughs] Oh, that was much harder than leaving the nest. Yeah. It was harder.

Question: THERE WAS SECURITY THERE FOR YOU. HOW LONG DID YOU DO THAT AND HOW WAS IT TO GO INTO THE LESS SECURE WORLD OF MOVIES?

Parker: It's terrifying, but I thought that was why it was necessary. I mean, it's such a strange thing to be so happy, so content and to know therefore you should leave. And I guess that it is like leaving home because there's every opportunity for failure. Especially in relation to that particular show and the kind of success even while we were only on cable, the kind of success that show had. But I don't know. I'm not afraid of failure, really. I don't want it and I certainly don't court it, but I just think it's what has to happen sometimes. I mean, it's the truth. Triumphs are very sweet when you've experienced disappointment. I don't think I have a constitution for disappointment or failure, but I just feel like you have to understand that it's going to happen, especially in a profession like this where you're just simply, constantly scrutinized, and especially if you care all about critics, and never mind public sentiment. So you just have to expect it and just ride the wave. People's careers - I'm sure in your own there's times you feel really engaged and really excited by your work and there are times you feel disappointed by what your editors ask of you or how you did something. I mean, it's for everybody, and I think that's the nature of being an adult and really caring about your work.

Question: It seems that the gutsiest thing you've ever done was the play Sylvia.

Parker: I played a dog. Well, that was one of the most perfectly written plays, I think, in the history of the American stage. That's just my opinion. But that role was very easy for me. I do not know why. Then there have been other things that have been far more difficult. 'Once Upon a Mattress' was a far more challenging experience. Sylvia, playing a dog, I don't know why - it really was. It came really, really easy to me.

Question: DID YOU KNOW ANY DOGS?

Parker: Well, we had a dog at the time that I mimicked a lot, but I also was mimicking Matthew mimicking our dog because she was a Border Collie - she just passed away - and a Dingo mix and she was really crazy. She was really egotistical, like she was a real narcissist. She was kind of like a supermodel. I mean, she was really beautiful and she knew it. I don't know; I guess I just used her and Matthew quite a bit. Pete Gurney (known by his pen name, A.R. Gurney) loved his dog and that whole play was about his crazy relationship with his dog.

Question: WOULD YOU WANT TO DO A PLAY WITH MATTHEW?

Parker: No. We don't really look for stuff together, but I think that there is a play that I might do in the spring. We'll see how it all kind of fits in.

Question: I THOUGHT THAT YOU TWO WERE LOOKING AT DOING 'MUSIC MAN' TOGETHER?

Parker: Oh, that's true. That's true. But I couldn't sing it. I know 'Music Man' because of Barbara Cooke.. It's a soprano. And then (producers) Craig (Zadan) and Neil (Meron) said, 'We'll take the keys down,' and I said, 'You shouldn't do that.' Marian should be a soprano. Also, I just think I really like being Matthew's audience. I don't want to be in a situation with Matthew where we both need attention, we're both worried and nervous and both away from our son at the same time. We don't really feel the need to work together. I mean, if something came along that was really right and seemed so obvious, but--

Question: DO YOU THINK THAT IT KEEPS YOUR RELATIONSHIP STRONG TO NOT WORK TOGETHER?

Parker: Maybe. I mean, I don't know. I don't know if our relationship is strong or if we have nowhere else to go [Laughs]. But we just really like each other. I mean, I really still like him so much and I'm sure that I annoy him and I know that he annoys me, but I like that we really do have separate lives. I don't mean in a bad way, but I just mean in a healthy way. My friend Amy, Amy Sedaris, she says it's 'married singles,' but I think that's a good thing. Like, he has his friends that he really connects to, and his work in the theatre, whatever, and then I have my thing and then we see each other and it's so nice. And we have our son.

Question: HOW OFTEN DO YOU SIT DOWN AT HOME AND COME ACROSS YOURSELF ON THE TV, IN SOMETHING YOU DID WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, LIKE SQAURE PEGS?

Parker: I wish I did. I never do. I think some of my earlier work is some of my best work, and I wish I saw it more, but I don't see it. The only thing about that to me that's amazing is that I started working when I was eight. That's a really long time ago. That was 1973 and most people that I meet today weren't even born yet, then. It's so strange to be the elder statesman on a set. I was always the youngest person on the set. I was always the one hanging around, watching, learning. I'm still learning, but it's so weird for me to reference something and then say, 'You actually weren't born then?' And they say, 'No, I wasn't. Well, six months later I was born.' That's the only thing about that. I don't see myself ever on television.

Question: HAS YOUR SON SEEN YOU ON TELEVISION?

Parker: He's just seen contemporary things. I don't know if it's weird for him because I don't know if he thinks every other parent is always on television. I don't know that he has distinguished our lives from his peer group's. So I don't know. He's three and three months.

Question: DO YOU CRAVE MORE KIDS?

Parker: I don't know. We'll see. We'll see. We'll see.

Question: WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON WITH YOU?

Parker: Nothing. Nothing! I'm not going to lie to you. I'm on a self-appointed sabbatical until September.

Question: AND THE HBO DEAL INVOLVES WHAT?

Parker: That is going on. That's pretty busy. We're producing long and short-form television and movies for HBO specifically. Only producing.

Question: ANY WAY IN THE WORLD YOU'D DO MORE SEX AND THE CITY?

Parker: We all wanted to do (the movie). Kim didn't want to at the time. I think that that moment seems (to have passed). She might (now), but for us it's passed. There was a script, there were sets, there were costumes, there was a crew, and that's all gone now. The sets are all broken down or sold or in a dumpster or, I don't know, on eBay. It'd be hard to buy it back. All the shoes, we have. We all have our shoes and they can have them back. But that particular momentum, which is really critical for a movie... I mean, who knows, way down the line, but it was a very hard pill to swallow, to have it not happen. I think it would be hard to revisit it later.

Question: YOU WERE ON THE SHOW SO LONG AND ARE SO IDENTIFIED WITH THAT ONE ROLE. ARE YOU TAKING MOVIE ROLES AND PURPOSEFULLY AVOIDING GETTING BACK INTO THAT AREA?

Parker: It's not hard for me at all. It just wouldn't even occur to me to get back in that same general area. If I was going to do it anywhere I'd stay right where I was with Michael Patrick King writing it. And it's no longer appropriate for me. I don't have any interest in exploring (it). In fact, I think for all of us, we should put away that particular conversation for a while. I think another show about women and dating, flawed women in the City that love fashion and have great jobs and have bad relationships has really been just dissected to the degree that, to me, it's not interesting right now. I think what's interesting right now is a different story. So I don't feel any particular vulnerability to being sucked back in because it's not even on the radar for me.

Question: CYNTHIA NIXON SURELY HAS MOVED AWAY FROM THAT IMAGE WITH HER STAGE WORK.

Parker: Yeah, absolutely. But that's Cynthia. That's classic Cynthia. Cynthia will always do what's interesting to her. She'll play Eleanor Roosevelt. She'll do Rabbit Hole. She'll do House for a couple of weeks. That's classic. She just always does interesting things.

Question: AND KRISTIN DAVIS HAS THE SHAGGY DOG.

Parker: Oh, that's March 10th! We're coming out the same day! It's all-out war.

Question: YOU WANT TO CRUSH THE BITCH, RIGHT? YOU WANNA RUN THAT DOG OVER, RIGHT?

Parker: I feel very conflicted. I feel very conflicted. I think we're going for different audiences. Don't you?

Question: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO LIVE IN NEW YORK?

Parker: I wouldn't go anywhere else. I don't have another choice. That's it. I don't know how to describe it. Our families are here. My husband was born and raised here. I've lived here for 30-some years. My son was born here. It's not about a conscious decision every day. It's just simply who we are. It's like you get up, you brush your teeth, and you live in New York. It's like anybody from their town that they love and live in. People in Chicago feel equally as devoted to their city. There are cities that I love, but I just don't want to live there.

Question: WHEN YOU GO TO L.A. HOW LIKE AN ALIEN CULTURE IS IT?

Parker: I like going there because I never go for very long and, because someone else is paying, I always stay at a really nice hotel. They have great Mexican food there and great sushi. So it does feel alien to me because it's so monopolized by this particular industry. It can make you anxious, but I kind of like visiting. I'm fine visiting. I just don't want to be away from home, in any other city for that long.

Question: AS YOU AGE, IS THERE MORE OF A CHALLENGE TO FIND THE RIGHT TYPES OF WOMEN TO PLAY?

Parker: There was at 20, too. It doesn't change.

Question: BUT AREN'T THE OPPORTUNITIES DIFFERENT IN YOUR 40'S?

Parker: You know what? I'm reading a variety of scripts, literally everything from a nun to a con artist to a woman who's suicidal. There doesn't seem to be this great deficit of roles. They're not all $40 million movies, but there are amazing period pieces. There are two period pieces with great women's roles. And if they're talking to me I'm certain there are a lot of other women that are my age that are being considered as well. I can't explain why, but it hardly seems a fallow period for women's roles.

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