An exclusive interview
While in town last summer to film Failure to Launch, Sarah Jessica Parker fell in love with New Orleans and all its undeniable charm, culture and idiosyncrasies—from the local music to the trademark architecture to the beloved recipes handed down through generations. After she waved goodbye to the Crescent City, Sarah Jessica focused on filming Spinning Into Butter, releasing Family Stone and launching Lovely, her gorgeous perfume, which may just be her most precious creation yet (besides 3-year-old son James Wilkie, of course).
Though Katrina ravaged the city she came to adore, the award-winning actress, whom millions know as Sex and the City’s iconic Carrie Bradshaw, holds out hope that the unique culture of New Orleans can somehow be preserved. Sarah Jessica spoke with SW about the recent exciting events in her life and expressed her sentiments about the recent “exciting” events in ours.
What went through your mind when you saw what was happening to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast during and after Hurricane Katrina?
I cannot even begin to know or think I could know what everybody went through, but certainly as somebody who had just left there and had a really wonderful time, it was unthinkable to see what had happened. I was working in London at the time with my husband [actor Matthew Broderick] and my son. We were in absolute shock and our immediate concern was what was going to happen to those people who seemed so stranded and then, more specifically, how could we find out for certain that the people we knew were safe.
After seeing those provocative images, do you feel it’s possible for New Orleans to regain her splendor one day?
It is our hope. I was living in New York during 9/11, so I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve been robbed spiritually, but I also know that you recover—you’re different, but you do recover. So I worry less about the spirit because I think that’s innate in New Orleans, but I do worry about the culture—the music, the food, the restaurants, the chefs, the artists—what happens? That to me was the most amazing thing about New Orleans. The architecture, too.
My driver used to say, “I love driving around the streets with you because I see New Orleans all over again.” I would just be like, “The houses!” I don’t care what neighborhood I was in, whether it was considered a lower income neighborhood or really affluent, those houses, whether they had one room or 14, they were just gorgeous! And I love that about the city—I love the preservation and the beautiful trees and the streetcars on St. Charles, the way the city looked to me. It was hot, I tell you, and I missed home, but I loved it!
That’s amazing that you were able to experience the city right before Katrina.
I think those of us who were there right before this particular hurricane hit felt so lucky to have been there, because the city and the memories were so vivid in our imaginations and it certainly made us feel that much more connected to the people, and that much more concerned. It wasn’t in the abstract, and we felt really privileged to have been there, spent the time there and know the people there. Those memories don’t fade, and because of Katrina they’ve only grown more affectionate.
Tell us about your latest film, Failure to Launch.
It’s a romantic comedy, and I play a woman who sees an epidemic around her of young men who are still living at home after what is considered an appropriate age. She is hired by parents to pretend to fall in love with their sons because she has determined through research that men develop self-esteem and maturity best through the course of a romantic relationship. So she pretends to fall in love with them and gets them to move out of their house in this sort of model program. Then she breaks up with them and then they mature.
She meets Matthew McConaughey’s character, but this time it’s different … you can imagine!
Had I never heard of Matthew McConaughey before, I would have fallen in love with him after the hurricane because he came down to help rescue animals.
I know, that was really amazing. He’s from that part of the country, so he feels a great affection for the city and for the Gulf Coast. I knew him only the teeniest bit before this film—he did a day or two for Sex and the City—but he was really fantastic and great to work with. And Kathy Bates is in it and she’s amazing … it was all nice, but the best part really was being in New Orleans.
Not only are you a stage and screen actress, but you’re also considered one of fashion’s biggest icons …
… how do you feel about being called that?
I don’t really think about it that much, because it certainly isn’t something that I planned to do, so I just hope I can live up to it.
Oh come on! Who else if not you?
(Laughs) I don’t know about that! But I do love fashion, and I do love beautifully made clothes, and God knows I’ve been given plenty of opportunities to wear them. I feel like I’m more of the beneficiary of the title rather than someone who’s really earned it. But I love beautiful things and I’ve really been given a lot of access to it, so I’ve been very lucky, you know?
You have spoken a lot in the past about the differences between you and Carrie Bradshaw, but do you love shoes as much as Carrie?
Not really. It was much more the character, but somehow the myth was attached to me. I mean, I love shoes and I definitely buy them, but I don’t go shopping all the time and I don’t buy shoes all the time. I keep shoes forever, and I got to keep a lot of the shoes from the show, which was thrilling, but I don’t wear them—I’ve archived them!
How much do you love being a mom and a wife? And by the way, your son is precious with those big blue eyes!
Oh, thank you! He’s so nice—I love being a mother and I love being a wife, and I’m sure I’m pretty annoying as a wife at times (laughs), but I’m really lucky. I have a wonderful family, both immediate and extended, and it’s great being a part of a family—it’s the best part of my life, without a doubt.
So will you consider coming back to New Orleans?
OF COURSE! Of course! (Laughs) And seriously, everyone needs to know that New Orleans is not forgotten. I don’t care what kind of message is being sent from Washington, but we think about it all the time. We think about that city and the rebuilding, and I stay in touch with a lot of people in New Orleans. I know I speak for millions of people when I say that this disaster is not lost in our consciousness, and it never will be.