“God, you smell good,” I say.
Sarah Jessica Parker puts a wrist under my nose. “It’s my latest fragrance I’m developing,” she tells me. “And my first genderless one.”
“How many does that make? You have about four or five already on the market,” I say. I put an arm around her. “Honey, don’t you have enough money by now?” I whisper.
She refuses to be kidded and shoots me a look. “Come on, Kevin,” she says, good-naturedly shaking herself free from my arm. “You know me. I have never made a decision based on money in my life.”
Parker’s latest romantic comedy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, co-starring Hugh Grant, is opening this week. It’s a fish-out-of-water story in which she and Grant, a troubled cosmopolitan couple, are put into the Witness Protection Program after happening upon a murder. They end up in Wyoming, whiling away their time there by falling for each other all over again. Parker has agreed to meet me for a bit of conversation on her way to tape The Late Show with David Letterman. We decide to meet at the Philip Johnson-designed headquarters for Sony Pictures Entertainment on Madison Avenue, in the corner office used by the company’s co-chairman, Amy Pascal, when she’s in New York City.
Parker plops down on Pascal’s plush sofa and allows a long-needed yawn to escape. She and Grant had hosted the New York premiere the night before—after returning from the London premiere before that. Further globetrotting was required during the last few weeks during the filming of the Sex and the City sequel. On top of all that, she is the mother of 6-month-old twin girls, new younger sisters to her son, 7-year-old James Wilkie. She and her husband, Matthew Broderick, had the twins last July through a surrogate.
Though exhausted, she has never looked lovelier. I let her yawn once more.
So how are the twins, Marion—as James Wilkie calls her—and Tabitha? I know Matthew played Henry Hill in The Music Man, who falls for Marion the librarian. And Tabitha is the name of Samantha’s daughter on Bewitched. So were you hoping for a little librarian and a little witch with those names?
The twins are very well, thank you. Marion is this name that James Wilkie chose for whatever reason. The rest of us call her Loretta. She’s Marion Loretta Elwell Broderick. And Tabitha is an old family name of mine from the 1600s. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a little witch until a friend mentioned it. But James Wilkie was very adamant about one of them being named Marion. He said, “You put that name on the birth certificate. Don’t you just humor me.” But I really wanted a Loretta. I’m not sure why. I was longing for a little Loretta in my life.
Well, this is a heightened coincidence. I heard Joan Rivers was on The Graham Norton Show with you in London last week, and every time she would make a joke or say something dirty, you would get all goody-goody and go, “Oh, my, you can’t say that.” She told a friend of mine it was like sitting next to fucking Loretta Young.
Oh my God! That’s so funny.
So have you become the new Loretta Young as you are nudging your mid-40s?
No, I’m not a prude at all. I’m delighted for anyone to use any kind of language they want to use. To be off-color. To work blue. Honestly, I have no objections. I love that people have and use all the choices in the world. I just have not for many, many, many, many, many years been someone who uses salty language. I don’t think it suits me. I’m not comfortable with it. Can you picture me using the F-word? Listen: “What the fuck!” See? It doesn’t work for me. It sounds silly in my mouth.
You and Matthew had Loretta and Tabitha through a surrogate. Having children through a surrogate pregnancy has become a kind of status symbol for a lot of affluent gays who long for families of their own. Was going the surrogate route a way for you and Matthew to channel your own inner affluent gay men?
God, that’s so true... and so funny. No, no, no ... Matthew and I were looking at a variety of ways to expand our family. So it’s not that simple, channeling our inner gayness. And I wouldn’t say that we are done either. We will keep exploring different ways to have a family I think.
Does having the twins by a surrogate complicate having to explain to James Wilkie exactly where babies come from? It would seem to make the birds-and-the-bees discussion, at the very least, a more modern one.
Not at all. My son goes to a school with children from so many different families. Some of his friends have two fathers. Some have two mothers. Some have single parents. Some have parents who are white and African American. He asks questions, that’s fair enough. But he has no sense to delve too deeply at this point. He is very comfortable living in a diverse world. Thank God.
Speaking of affluent gays, I saw Matthew at a birthday party over the Thanksgiving holidays. It was for the daughter of one of our mutual friends—an affluent gay man. His daughter was turning 2. He had had her by a surrogate. You couldn’t be there because Matthew said you were in Marrakech shooting the Sex and the City sequel.
He and I were just talking about that party last night.
His reviews for The Starry Messenger had just come out, and he had gotten raves for his performance in that off-Broadway play after so much bad press about the play itself and his not knowing his lines during previews. Even The New York Times had run a front-page story on his needing a prompter in the front row and what a disaster the play was turning out to be. Matthew, like your co-star Hugh Grant in this movie, possesses a kind of debonair diffidence. And yet sometimes when I’m around him, I am struck by a kind of haunted look in his eyes. But at that party, I looked into his eyes and saw for the first time a real contentment. There was a quiet happiness about him. Or maybe he was just quietly, contentedly exhausted from staying up the night before with Loretta and Tabitha since he said they hadn’t been sleeping.
No, he was content. You’re exactly right. That’s the right word. Contentment. And let me tell you, he had earned that, too. Boy, did he earn it. That was all a tragic tale of the press not doing due diligence. He wasn’t proud of himself for triumphing because Matthew is not a peacock. He’s not boastful. Far from it. But there was an aspect he garnered from experiencing that exhausted peacefulness that one has after going through labor—that strange, beautiful, altered state. He also had proved to himself that he could be a leader. And it also made him feel rather alone, I think, during the process. I mean, we all die alone, right? Even though there might be family and friends around us. We all die alone. At least, that’s what I’ve come to realize. I think that whole experience with The Starry Messenger was ultimately a kind of lonely one for him, and yet it strengthened him. And, you know, after the play opened and he had gone through that rough rehearsal process and those awful previews, he didn’t send me his rave reviews himself over in Marrakech. There was no gloating. Other friends sent them to me. But that’s Matthew.
I know what a political animal you are. Last year you told me that James Wilkie had inherited the political gene from you, that he was a huge Obama supporter. Is he, like so many of us in the Democratic base, disappointed in the president’s performance in this first year of his term? How about you? President Obama even appointed you to his Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
James Wilkie came to Morocco to visit me on the set of Sex and the City. He was so sweet. He had saved The New York Times with my picture in it that announced my being appointed to that committee. He had carefully folded it up in his suitcase so he could give it to me. He has expressed pride in Obama, although he has also expressed to me that he is unhappy at how much Obama is on television. As for me, I refuse to lose hope in Obama, although health care is the biggest concern for me. I will be so blue if I lose hope in this man. I’m not a Pollyanna but I can’t abandon Obama at this early stage. The thing that I was hoping for was transparency in the health-care debate because that’s the promise he made to me personally. That has disappointed me. And as for Joe Lieberman’s role in the health-care process ... well, I just don’t understand it. James Wilkie is more mature than Joe Lieberman is. Lieberman has behaved like a petulant child.
Do you have a big Christmas planned for James Wilkie this year? I know you and Matthew are each half-Jewish and identify culturally as Jews. So is Christmas even on the family agenda?
Oh, yes. We’re more pagans than anything. But we have a big Christmas planned. It’s the twins’ first one so it will be special for all of us. We’ll celebrate at our house, then go over to my mother’s and celebrate with my siblings. It will be a big celebration with lots and lots of people.
You said earlier that we all die alone. But you don’t seem to have much time alone for yourself. You’re so busy living your life as an actress and mother and producer and wife and perfumer and a sister to your array of siblings. Do you cherish your own time alone? Do you ever even have any?
I covet it. I was just in London last week and there would be times I would be alone in my hotel room and I would stop and recognize it and appreciate it. Those times when I realize I am alone with myself and my thoughts I do take the time to suck the marrow out of it. Sometimes after I’ve walked James Wilkie to school and head off to the grocery store by myself or a book store I can catch myself whistling or humming because I’m so happy to still have those moments.
Kevin Sessums is the author of The New York Times bestseller Mississippi Sissy, a memoir of his childhood. He was executive editor of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and Allure. He is a contributing editor of Parade. His new memoir, I Left It on Mountain will be published by St. Martins Press.