‘It Became Mean Girls’: Inside Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall’s Ugly ‘Sex and the City’ Feud
A new book about HBO reveals what started the fight between the two stars, alleging Kim Cattrall became a headache over money and Sarah Jessica Parker ostracized Cattrall.
Their long-running feud has played out in the public eye over the years, including when the HBO series was at its peak in the early 2000s, as their rumored infighting and tense standoffs over pay became tabloid gossip fodder.
Jabs were traded here and there, as Cattrall wasn’t very demure when she spoke to the press about how the women didn’t have to be best friends and that no amount of “bullying” would ever convince her to make a third movie.
The tensions boiled over onto social media when Cattrall’s brother passed away in February 2018. In response to Parker sending her condolences in the form of an Instagram comment, Cattrall called her former co-star a “hypocrite” and “cruel.”
“Let me make this VERY clear,” Cattrall wrote back. “You are not my family. You are not my friend. So, I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona.”
The bad blood has continued to this day, with Cattrall refusing to reprise her fan-favorite role of Samantha Jones in HBO’s reboot of the iconic series And Just Like That..., which premieres in December.
James Andrew Miller’s new book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, out Nov. 23, tries to get to the heart of what started the vicious infighting, alleging that Cattrall became a headache for the network to deal with.
Cattrall, now 65, was reportedly after more money and the network was set against it, reluctant to put her on equal footing with Parker, who came to the series as a B-list actress and had an executive producer credit.
But the book also places some of the blame on Parker, who reportedly created a toxic work environment by forming a clique with Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis while completely shutting out Cattrall.
Sex and the City producer John Melfi summed it up as a “generational” difference between Cattrall and Parker, pointing to a quote that Cattrall had given to the press that essentially called her co-stars just colleagues, saying there was no further need to socialize with them outside of work.
Also sharing his two cents with Miller was former HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht, who was ousted from the network in 2007 following a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend.
“What happened was it became Mean Girls and whatever Kim did or didn’t do, the result was she was ostracized,” Albrecht is quoted as saying. “I’m not saying it wasn’t justified, but it gets tricky when you have an actor who is also a producer. As an executive producer, SJ should have figured out how to not let that happen. But as an actress, she ended up letting it happen.”
“I became the de facto executive in charge of Kim, although I had a lot of help from [HBO executive Carolyn Strauss] and a couple times even from [HBO executive Jeff Bewkes],” he added. “We were all really good at managing it and keeping it under wraps for a long time.”
Albrecht said it made sense that Parker was the highest paid on the show—after all, she was the star—but it was Cattrall “who everybody was talking about, because Samantha was the most outrageous character.”
“Whether there was jealousy toward Kim about that, or Kim wasn’t handling it well, depends on who you listen to,” he said.
“Then Kim wanted more, and I think she got more than the other girls. Kim’s popularity gave us reason to think that there might be a couple of different levels of payment, and we discussed a producing deal with her... There are plenty of ways to show people you value the relationship and their services. It doesn’t always have to be direct compensation for a specific role.”
Bewkes offered an anecdote about how Cattrall once turned up to his office with her then-husband Mark Levinson in tow, armed with a long list of complaints. “She starts telling an impassioned tale of inconsiderate treatment,” Bewkes recalled.
“There was chapter and verse of other indignities, including she’s not getting paid what she was promised, or maybe what Sarah Jessica was getting, something about money.”
Ranking high on Cattrall’s list of grievances to Bewkes was that she had to film a nude scene with an actual New York City fireman, rather than an actor who was playing a fireman. Her complaint most likely was about Season 3’s premiere episode “When There’s Smoke,” where Samantha is seen eyeing a nude fireman.
Bewkes promised to look into her complaints, which seemed to appease Cattrall, and she left his office with her husband. He then called up HBO executive Mike Lombardo to relay what just happened.
“I got Lombardo on the phone, told him the whole thing including how worked up she was about the naked fireman, and did he know this was a problem for her,” Bewkes said in the book. “Mike says, ‘Well, it was her idea, the nude scene, having a real fireman, and it was a great scene for her, by the way, a big hit. And you’re telling me the husband was sitting there? Of course he didn’t like it, because the fireman was buff.’”
“So she came in to make a show in front of her husband that she didn’t like the nude scene with the fireman? The whole thing was a performance,” Bewkes recalled asking Lombardo. “She’s an actor, she wanted the husband to see that, but mainly it’s about the money.”
While Cattrall wasn’t interviewed for the book, she’s made it clear how she’s feels about ever working on another Sex and the City installment. “I don’t want to be in a situation for even an hour where I’m not enjoying myself. I want to choose who I spend time with personally and professionally. It’s my life,” she told The Guardian in 2019.
“It was a blessing in so many ways but after the second movie I’d had enough. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just replace me with another actress instead of wasting time bullying. No means no.”