Sarah Jessica Parker Did You Hear About The Morgans

SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS MERYL IN DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?

Being wooed (on screen, of course) by Hugh Grant is a highly entertaining way to spend your working day. Just ask Sarah Jessica Parker who co-stars with the ever-charming Englishman in Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Grant has perfected the art of romantic comedy, says the actress, who has adored the genre ever since she was a child growing up watching comedy classics with her family.

"I love them," she says. "And I have since I was a kid. And if you ask me, there's no one better right now than Hugh. His timing is perfect and it was an absolute joy to work with him. And believe me, it's a lot of fun when Hugh is on set."

Indeed, making Did You Hear About The Morgans? for director Marc Lawrence proved to be one of the best experiences of her remarkable career.

"Hugh is a complete delight despite his proclamations about how difficult he is going to be and how grumpy he is," she laughs. "He has this whole preamble about how awful he is and I think it must be some plot to throw you off but he's not like that at all. I just adore him and I wouldn't have if the work experience wasn't so great.

"And Marc is truly one of the great directors that I've worked with even though he won't hear it. He knows what every person on set needs and it's the very simple, little specific things that he says that for me were really, really helpful. I had total trust in him and I loved working for him. I would do it again anytime."

Parker is an expert comedic performer herself, of course. Her creation of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City skilfully blends the contemporary issues that modern women face with humour and social commentary.

Did You Hear About The Morgans? provided an entirely different challenge - not least out in the wilds of New Mexico where it was filmed - but was no less rewarding, she says. Parker stepped into a project that had an excellent script, written by Lawrence, and a top line cast and that she says, are the essential ingredients for a good film.

"We had some rehearsal time before we started shooting which was really beneficial and it was so nice to sit in a room with Marc and Hugh, who know each other very well and have a shorthand and a way of collaborating and working together that has been very effective for them, and ask questions and work on the dialogue to a certain degree and just hone it all.

"But you know, at this point in my life I tend not to sign up to do something that needs a lot of fixing - and this most certainly didn't - because you learn that those things just don't happen. I took my lead from Hugh and Mark and it was a very pleasant environment in which to do that. I really had a great time."

Lawrence has directed Grant twice before, in Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics so Parker was the new girl joining a well-established, successful team who have honed the art of romantic comedy. But both couldn't have been more welcoming and did everything to make her feel right at home, she says.

"They were great. They obviously know each other really well and have worked together successfully in the past - this was their third film together - but they did everything to make me feel right at home. And they are so good at this genre, romantic comedy, and when I read the script I just loved it. And I was flattered and tickled at the thought of playing opposite Hugh."

Did You Hear About The Morgans? uproots a dedicated urban couple out of their Manhattan comfort zone into the wilds of Wyoming where they have to hide out from a killer.

"I loved the idea," she says. "It has that old fashioned romantic comedy blueprint and I knew that if we worked hard and did out jobs right then it would come together."

We meet the Morgans at a crisis point in their marriage. Paul (Grant), a hot-shot lawyer, has fallen out of favour with his beautiful wife and they have been living apart for some time but he is desperate to woo her back. Meryl (Parker), a real estate agent, finds it hard to forgive and forget some of Paul's past misdemeanours and it looks like they are heading for divorce.

"They have been married for ten years and have been very happy - or so Meryl assumed - and then separated because Hugh's character has let her down badly in the past. He is really contrite and working very hard to convince her to give him another chance and she agrees to have a meal with him one evening before she is showing a client a property.

"They have dinner and he throws himself on her mercy and says 'please, let's work on this, don't give up on Me.' And then he asks to walk her to the showing and when they get there they witness the murder of her client, who turns out to be part of a larger story of criminal activity."

After they are questioned by the police, the Morgans go back to their separate lives but when the killer strikes again detectives realise that they are both in danger and convince them to go into the witness protection programme and assume new identities far away from New York for their own safety.

"They try to kill Meryl," Parker explains. "And so they are put into the witness protection programme together and forced to leave New York. There's a line in the movie that I'll paraphrase, where they say to her 'would you rather die or leave New York for safety?' And she's like 'give me a minute to think.' Because it's very hard for her to leave Manhattan."

The Morgans are whisked away to the rugged, rural charm of Wyoming where life for this ultra sophisticated pair of city dwellers is very different indeed. There are no chic restaurants, no BlackBerrys and their floundering relationship is put under even more strain than it was amidst the skyscrapers and high end stores in the Big Apple.

In reality, the production filmed in and around Santa Fe in New Mexico and for Parker the enjoyment of working with her co-stars, including Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliott, was tempered by the fact that she missed her family, husband Matthew Broderick and their six year old son James.

"My son was in school at the time and it's not great at this point in his life to take him out of school," she explains. "I was nervous about him being on an airplane without me so we didn't see each other.

"And it was horrible and actually it was probably far worse for me but I just can't let that happen again. And actually on the movie I'm shooting at the moment, we're going abroad for a longer period of time and my children are coming this time."

Parker and Broderick are now the proud parents of twin girls, Marion and Tabitha, who were born in June (2009). "They're very well, thank you," she says. "And they are just great. It's a wonderful time for us."

Despite missing her loved ones, she clearly enjoyed filming in New Mexico although it was a challenge - particularly working alongside the animals and shooting in the desert.

"Now let me see," she smiles. "I was milking cows, riding horses, jogging in the desert - that was really odd let me tell you - and shooting rifles. Oh yes, and filming with a grizzly bear. I know some people who have done more unusual things as actors but let me tell you that the accumulation of all of those things added up to a pretty memorable experience.

"It was fine and it was very funny at times. There was one scene where I was supposed to milk cows with Sam Elliott which was amusing and humorous," she laughs. "And not just on the screen, although I hope it is there too.

"Sam, who actually does live on a ranch, is incredibly comfortable with animals of all types but I was very, very worried that I would do something inappropriate to a cow and she would kick me. I didn't know what I was doing - and nor should I because my character didn't - but it was fun and ridiculous!

"I didn't feel comfortable on a horse and neither does Meryl so that kind of works. Hugh had some riding experience so he was more comfortable. But the thing that was the most taxing was jogging in the desert endlessly.

"There's a whole, long jogging sequence which sort of tells a story in itself of the relationship and so we jogged and jogged endlessly in the deserts of Santa Fe. I thought it was the most cruel thing because it was boiling hot - so that's my hardship story."

Parker, one of eight siblings, grew up in Ohio and later near New York City and a precious family treat would be to go to the movies on special occasions. She loved comedies and particularly romantic comedies.

"We would go on New Year's Day and it was a big deal for us because we all loved romantic comedies and classic comedies. Later I realised that all those Academy Award movies come out around that time and in the old days comedies were nominated for Oscars.

"And then when you could start renting movies we always rented comedies and watching them together at Thanksgiving. My brothers are really, really funny and we laugh a lot in my family so I think we always responded to comedies."

She started acting at just 9 years old when she won the leading role in The Little Match Girl. She attended the open auditions almost by chance and beat 500 hopefuls to land the highly coveted part and it was to alter the course of her life.

"My whole life changed," she says. "I don't know why I was the person for that part at the time and I don't know why fate really dealt me such a incredibly privileged life, but that's why I try to be cognizant of it all the time, because it could have been any little girl, honestly.

"There were 500 of us in that line to audition for that part that day and I'm sure there were other girls who could have done a beautiful job, if not a better job, but I got it, and I don't know why. But it did change my life."

She went on to build an extraordinary career that has included films like L.A. Story, Honeymoon in Vegas, The First Wives Club, Mars Attacks!, State and Main, The Family Stone and Failure to Launch.

She also created on of the most iconic characters on the contemporary screen, Carrie Bradshaw, starring in six phenomenally successful seasons of Sex and the City on TV before taking the story to the big screen in 2008.

Sex and the City, the movie, grossed $625 million around the world and she is currently filming Sex and the City 2 with director Michael Patrick King, who also directed the first film and several episodes of the series.

"We really wanted to tell a grown up story (in the first film) and Sex and the City 2 is really the antidote to that," she reveals. "If we do it right, it should be a caper and a romp. This is all soufflé and froth and big, big set pieces and fantasy and intentionally so."

Playing Carrie in the groundbreaking series has meant a level of public recognition that has, at times, been overwhelming. And in the early days at least, that included strangers coming up to her and revealing candid details of their own lives in the expectation that Parker would offer words of wisdom.

It's a tribute to Parker's considerable talent as an actor, too, because she is not - as she points out - like Carrie at all. A happily married mother with a family she adores, Parker is about as likely to be found in the latest New York hot spot, as Carrie would be changing nappies.

"When the show first aired people would be not unkindly confrontational, but they would be very frank and candid and just tell me very personal and intimate details of their lives," she says.

"Really men and women, honestly. But people weaned themselves of that need and more so now they're just approaching it in a general, convivial way."

"Because it's not my nature to be that way-of all the women I'm the least candid and forthright about that kind of thing -that conversation to me is not anecdotal to me. So it's very surprising, but I understood why.

"I think that is the nature of television; it creates an intimacy very quickly for people. It's in their homes and I think they establish relationships and I knew that this show was connecting with an audience - even then I understood that this was the first time there was that voice. And that women were responding to it."

more Sarah Jessica Parker

Q: Hugh Grant is always claiming that he's grumpy and difficult to work with. Is that true?

Sarah Jessica Parker: Hugh is a complete delight despite his proclamations about how difficult he is going to be and how grumpy he is," she laughs. "He has this whole preamble about how awful he is and I think it must be some plot to throw you off but he's not like that at all. I just adore him and I wouldn't have if the work experience wasn't so great because it was a long shoot, it was environmentally an unusual shoot (laughs). He's just wonderful. I had worked with him years and years ago.


Q: What movie was that?

Sarah Jessica Parker: It was called Extreme Measures. We actually I think even played opposite one another, sort of. And I was working at the time doing a Broadway show and I was also doing some re-shoots on The First Wives Club so it was a very busy time and I was flying in and out of Canada, and he and Liz Hurley were producing it and I barely got to know him on that movie and I don't know why. But this movie, despite being taken away from my family and going to Santa Fe for five weeks, which was somewhat of a hardship, he and Marc Lawrence just made the entire experience so good I just loved it. Hugh is so smart and so funny and so good at what he does and cares so much about every detail of it. And he's a delight.


Q: Marc and Hugh have worked together before. Who approached you for this one?

Sarah Jessica Parker: Well, Hugh was already set, and in the old tradition of agents and the like, I just got a call from my agent that Marc Lawrence was doing a new movie and it was with Hugh Grant, and that Marc wanted me, to play the part of Meryl, opposite Hugh and would I read it, and of course I did right away. I actually have a number of friends who are actors in New York who have had the great pleasure of working with Marc Lawrence and he just has a sort of spotless reputation. And among people who don't work with him, just in the world of film, he's just really well liked. And all of that came to me with the script and I loved the idea. It has that old-fashioned romantic comedy blueprint and I knew that if we worked hard and did out jobs right then it would come together. And I was flattered and tickled at the thought of playing opposite Hugh.


Q: Tell me about the story. You and Hugh play a couple whose marriage is in crisis...

Sarah Jessica Parker: That's right. They have been married for ten years and have been very happy - or so Meryl assumed - and then separated because Hugh's character has let her down badly in the past. He is really contrite and working very hard to convince her to give him another chance and she agrees to have a meal with him one evening before she is showing a client a property. They have dinner and he throws himself on her mercy and says 'please, let's work on this, don't give up on me..' And then he asks to walk her to the showing and when they get there they witness the murder of her client, who turns out to be part of a larger story of criminal activity. They try to kill Meryl," Parker explains. "And so they are put into the witness protection programme together and forced to leave New York. There's a line in the movie that I'll paraphrase, where they say to her 'would you rather die or leave New York for safety?' And she's like 'give me a minute to think.' Because it's very hard for her to leave Manhattan.


Q: So they end up out in the wilds and from what I've seen that meant you working with animals and jogging in the desert. Tell me what that was like...

Sarah Jessica Parker: Well, it was fine (laughs) and it was very funny at times. I can't speak for Hugh, who was looking forward to the big skies and the vast horizons and all that, and I was too sort of, but it was dusty and we were on horses a lot. There was one scene where I was supposed to milk cows with Sam Elliott, which was amusing and humorous - and not just on the screen, although I hope it is there too. Sam, who actually does live on a ranch, is incredibly comfortable with animals of all types but I was very, very worried that I would do something inappropriate to a cow and she would kick me. I didn't know what I was doing - and nor should I because my character didn't - but it was fun and ridiculous! I didn't feel comfortable on a horse and neither does Meryl so that kind of works. Hugh had some riding experience so he was more comfortable. But the thing that was the most taxing was jogging in the desert endlessly. There's a whole, long jogging sequence that sort of tells a story in itself of the relationship and so we jogged and jogged endlessly in the deserts of Santa Fe. I thought it was the most cruel thing because it was boiling hot - so that's my hardship story."


Q: I guess Sarah the life of an actress does throw up some rather unusual situations that you have to do, but milking cows would be way up there I would assume?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I guess so (laughs). Yes, now let me see. I was milking cows, riding horses, jogging in the desert - that was really odd let me tell you - and shooting rifles. Oh yes, and filming with a grizzly bear. I know some people who have done more unusual things as actors but let me tell you that the accumulation of all of those things added up to a pretty memorable experience.


Q: Did it convince you that maybe you could have that kind of rural life yourself?

Sarah Jessica Parker: (laughs). I love travelling. I really do. I plan trips that will never happen so it's not about being removed from home. But the truth is I really like being home and I really, really like a city - I love cities! And Santa Fe is beautiful and I probably wouldn't have seen it any other time and I'm really glad I saw it. But I really like cities. Does that answer your question? (laughs).


Q: Yes it does...

Sarah Jessica Parker: It's funny because I like to experience things and sometimes it's like you're only more convinced after experiencing something like this that you've chosen the right place to live. And people in Santa Fe were so lovely and it really is especially beautiful and so different than the noise and the rhythm and the sort of life of a city. But I guess I'm a city girl and I really like people a lot (laughs).


Q: Yeah. You mentioned earlier that filming had taken you away from your family. Did you have to leave them behind for the whole shoot?

Sarah Jessica Parker: My son was in school at the time and it's not great at this point in his life to take him out of school. I was nervous about him being on an airplane without me so we didn't see each other. And it was horrible and actually it was probably far worse for me but I just can't let that happen again. And actually on the movie I'm shooting at the moment, we're going abroad for a longer period of time and my children are coming this time.


Q: By the way, congratulations on the birth of your twins. How are they doing?

Sarah Jessica Parker: They're very well, thank you. And they are just great. It's a wonderful time for us.


Q: The dialogue is a major part of a romantic comedy like Did You Hear About The Morgans? Did you have input into that yourself?

Sarah Jessica Parker: We had some rehearsal time before we started shooting which was really beneficial and it was so nice to sit in a room with Marc and Hugh, who know each other very well and have a shorthand and a way of collaborating and working together that has been very effective for them, and ask questions and work on the dialogue to a certain degree and just hone it all. But you know, at this point in my life I tend not to sign up to do something that needs a lot of fixing - and this most certainly didn't - because you learn that those things just don't happen. I took my lead from Hugh and Mark and it was a very pleasant environment in which to do that. I really had a great time


Q: Did you grow up liking comedies?

Sarah Jessica Parker: Oh yeah, I loved them. My whole family did. We would go on New Year's Day and it was a big deal for us because we all loved romantic comedies and classic comedies. Later I realised that all those Academy Award movies come out around that time and in the old days comedies were nominated for Oscars. And then when you could start renting movies we always rented comedies and watching them together at Thanksgiving. My brothers are really, really funny and we laugh a lot in my family so I think we always responded to comedies


Q: Was all that kind of part of what made you want to act yourself?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I don't really know. I don't have any good reason why I thought I could be an actor. I mean, the first thing I ever did was just read something in a small supplement in our local paper in Cincinnati that the local NBC affiliate was auditioning girls for a television version of The Little Match Girl, which was actually something that NBC did, but for some reason they cast out of Cincinnati. And I don't know what in the world made me think I could do it. I wasn't a confident girl, it's not like I was full of bravado and ambition and confidence, but I went downtown and auditioned and I got that part, and I don't know what that experience sort of cultivated in me but it somehow encouraged me for better or worse to pursue that. Simultaneously, my brother was sort of doing a similar thing, and Cincinnati Ohio in the 70s had enormous cultural events and a life to it that was really well regarded - we had a really important equity theatre, that all the great actors from New York would come and do plays and we had, and still do, two really great museums, we have a thriving classical music scene and of course we had a local cinema that had first run of really great movies. So there was a lot of art in our life. And my parents just loved it and we loved to listen to records all day long and we listened to our public radio station, which was always broadcasting Live From Lincoln Centre, and it was just part of our lives, I don't know why, and maybe it's cause we didn't have a lot of money and these things are all affordable.


Q: For a child who wasn't over confident that's an incredible thing to do. Do you ever think about how that changed your life?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I know, it could have been anybody's daughter. My whole life changed. I don't know why I was the person for that part at the time and I don't know why fate really dealt me such an incredibly privileged life, but that's why I try to be cognizant of it all the time, because it could have been any little girl, honestly. There were 500 of us in that line to audition for that part that day and I'm sure there were other girls who could have done a beautiful job, if not a better job, but I got it, and I don't know why. But it did change my life


Q: You've talked before about your upbringing and how that has instilled values in you that have stayed with you into adulthood. Do you try and pass on those values to your own children?

Sarah Jessica Parker: Well yes, I mean I try, I'm not alone in that effort because Matthew feels the same way too. We didn't come from privileged backgrounds so we just worked and Matthew's father was a journeyman actor, who sometimes made a living and sometimes a year or so went by and they had nothing and when Matthew became an actor, he didn't become an actor to be rich and famous, he didn't know that existed. I mean, when you're a journeyman, and a successful journeyman actor, his father was very well thought of and had a very enviable career, but it was a different time and he worked in the theatre and he travelled and worked at different regional theatres and then very late in his life, he was kind of the star of a television series that was meaningful financially. But it was really just about wanting to do good work, that's all it was. And that's all I knew. I didn't know about any of this other peripheral stuff that happens, or doesn't happen. And I don't want any different for my son, and it's very hard to raise a child, to kind of create a false environment for him or her. Meaning that things are different for James than they were for myself or Matthew growing up. I mean, there isn't a concern about the electricity bill. The phone bill will be paid. We could pay his tuition for school, we can buy him birthday presents, more than one, I mean, there are circumstances that are radically different. So how do you have that as a reality and then also kind of convince him to the contrary? It's our job to do it. It's not harder than being broke and I'm not saying woe is us at all. This is a wonderful challenge for us.


Q: You're filming Sex and the City 2 at the moment. The first film was a huge success. How is the sequel coming along?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I was really pleased with how the first film turned out. I just thought everybody was wonderful and everybody's work and the important contribution they made was fantastic. And the cherry on that sundae was that people went to see it, which was an enormous relief (laughs). And this one is going beautifully. Funnily enough, I think everybody, specifically among the cast, wants to be here this much more this time. I feel for some reason, all of us are much closer on this one.


Q: Why is that?

Sarah Jessica Parker: I can't tell you why, I don't know, we're just maybe, two years has passed, we missed each other, it's just been incredibly happy, everybody just wants to be there and it's presented it's own challenges - we didn't have the kind of prep that we needed on this one, because our locations changed at the last minute, so we're sort of slammed in terms of just kind of some logistical stuff that really proved problematic, and costly in terms of time, but we're struggling through that. And most importantly, it's just been great to be together again. I don't understand why I love playing that part so much, I just do.


Q: As a character Carrie is a million miles from you as well isn't she?

Sarah Jessica Parker: Maybe that's why. (laughs)


Q: Yeah. And that's what it's all about as an actor, as well isn't it? Creating characters, it's not all about playing you...

Sarah Jessica Parker: Oh god no. What a bore. Yeah, and I would be uncomfortable. But yeah, and I think honestly, I love the people I get to work opposite. I love what I get to do as that character and her life is so different from my own and it's the people. If I'm going to be away from my family, I might as well be with these people.


Q: And are you happy that you've taken the story to some good new directions as well?

Sarah Jessica Parker: We really wanted to tell a grown up story (in the first film) and Sex and the City 2 is really the antidote to that," she reveals. "If we do it right, it should be a caper and a romp. This is all soufflé and froth and big, big set pieces and fantasy and intentionally so. It will still have a story that is meaningful about life, whatever chapter of Carrie's life that we are in, but there's a nice sense of fun to it. It's big and it's fun.


Q: And what will you do immediately after you've finished Sex and the City 2?

Sarah Jessica Parker: It's along shoot and we don't finish until January. I won't do anything. I won't work again until next fall.


Q: Just enjoy those babies. I hope you're getting some sleep by the way.

Sarah Jessica Parker: I'm managing, yeah. I'm okay. They're amazing. They're sleeping great.


Frank Edwards


Did You Hear About The Morgans

Cast: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen Elisabeth Moss, Michael Kelly, Wilford Brimley
Director: Marc Lawrence
Genre: Romantic Comedy

The comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? follows a highly successful Manhattan couple, Meryl and Paul Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant), whose almost-perfect lives have only one notable failure - their dissolving marriage.

But the turmoil of their romantic lives is nothing compared to what they are about to experience: they witness a murder and become targets of a contract killer.

The Feds, protecting their witnesses, whisk away the Morgans from their beloved New York to a tiny town in Wyoming, and a relationship that was on the rocks threatens to end completely in the Rockies... unless, in their new BlackBerry-free lives, the Morgans can slow down the pace and rekindle the passion.

Did you here about the Morgans? in Cinemas 26th December

www.sonypictures.com.au/movies/didyouhearaboutthemorgans/


© 2009 CTMG. All Rights Reserved.


 

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