'Sex and the City 2' vastly different from first film

Sequel sees the girls flying from New York to Abu Dhabi

You know a movie's looking good when the big question at its press junket is, "Will you do another sequel?"

That's the happy situation for "Sex and the City 2" from New Line, HBO and Village Roadshow Pictures, which opened May 27 via Warner Bros.

"We never thought we'd be a movie and then we never thought we'd be a sequel," writer-director Michael Patrick King said when asked about a third "Sex."

"Through the press junket it seems to be the thing that everybody's asking," he explained. "It's really nice that people are saying either, 'You have to do another one' or, 'Of course, you'll do another one.' But 'Sex and the City' is really a bizarre franchise in that we do it all without any thought of what's coming next."

But what about another sequel? "I know there's nothing in the works. It's once again, 'Hope you like it because this is all we have right now.' "

With the 2008 feature spin-off from the HBO series having grossed $415 million worldwide and with this sequel already jumping out of the box, it sounds like there'd be an audience for a third film.

"When we went to the theaters with that first movie there was nothing on deck in terms of doing a sequel," King recalled. "We were just hoping everybody would see we were able to turn the television series into a movie."

(To read King's comments at the time, click on this link to my column with him from May 27, 2008.)

The passion adult women had for "Sex" at the boxoffice sparked the original's success and gave birth to plans for a sequel.

"People started talking about, 'You've got to do it again because that's what Hollywood does.' After that I was just waiting to see if I could come up with another story that would be different enough and exciting enough to justify trying to step out again into the summer movie arena."

This time around Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Big (Chris Noth) and the rest of the "Sex" team are starring in a movie that was designed to be quite different from the first one.

"I only have one rule having written 'Sex and the City' for lo these many years," King observed, "and that is -- never repeat."

The first movie's New York setting was an emotional landscape for Carrie.

"The ups and the downs were all in her storyline, in her emotions with getting jilted at the altar."

An hour into "Sex 2," we're flying from New York to Abu Dhabi as the ladies take a desperately needed break from family and work pressures to enjoy an ultra-luxurious free holiday contributed by one of Samantha's clients.

When King sat down to write the sequel he was thinking about the global recession and how people's spirits need lifting.

"What did moviemakers do in the other Big Depression? They made big movies and escapist comedies."

The result is what he calls his homage to '30s movies, starting with a wildly over-the-top wedding reception for Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone).

"I got to direct a movie that felt like an MGM musical with big glittery sets indoors and musical numbers with Liza Minnelli."

King shifts gears for the movie's second half, which he said is "more the road picture or epic sort of David Lean feel." He shot it not in Abu Dhabi, but in Morocco where there's a solid filmmaking infrastructure. In fact, King wound up using the same sand dunes that Lean filmed for "Lawrence of Arabia."

He came up with the sequel-as-road-picture idea based on his own worldwide travels to promote the original.

"We opened in London and in Berlin and we were in Paris and Tokyo. And all of a sudden, I started seeing that in every city I went to these four characters had girlfriends waiting for them."

King thought about setting "Sex 2" in Dubai or Abu Dhabi because they were glamorous high luxury markets free of financial troubles at the time.

"I settled on Abu Dhabi because it was more exotic and more unknown.

When I sat down to write, I just wanted it to be a continuation of the party in the audiences when I would see people seeing the first movie. Women were dressing up, having cocktails before and after and taking pictures of themselves  Once he decided the sequel's story should take place amidst flowing veils and desert sands, "it seemed kind of Bob Hope & Bing Crosby to put them all on camels."

Those camels, King laughs, "were the only divas on this movie."

And he blames himself for that because he's the one who insisted, "I don't want no shaggy, mangy camels. I need show camels."

It's really a case of be careful what you wish for: "We imported four blonde camels from Egypt. And let me tell you, they had an attitude -- like 'it's about us right now.' "

Parker and Cattrall shared a camel that had "this incredibly bizarre behavior where it would just suddenly sit down. When a camel sits down it goes knee first -- and they would scream! The funny thing is, the camel never sat down when we were rolling. It was really just an attitude."

See Martin Grove's Zamm Cam movie previews on www.ZAMM.com.
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