Years before Kim Cattrall found international stardom as Samantha Jones, the brash best friend of Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte on Sex and the City, she learned a valuable lesson from a Hollywood legend. The 24-year-old actress was starring opposite Jack Lemmon in Tribute, a film version of the Broadway show that earned Lemmon a Tony nomination.
Lemmon had dozens of credits, including classics like Some like It Hot and The Apartment under his belt and two Oscars on his mantelpiece at home.
“How do you have longevity?” she asked the veteran actor.
“Take things that scare the pants off you,” he replied.
It’s advice she took to heart, particularly when approaching her new project, Sensitive Skin for HBO Canada.
“I think for me to bring this story to North America was the scariest thing,” she says. “Hanging in there and really trusting my instincts because I doubted them sometimes. I put it on the shelf and I walked away but I kept coming back and I think the thing that kept me coming back was the fear of it.
“I could go on playing Samantha for the rest of my life but I wouldn’t be very happy. I wouldn’t be advancing in any way. This was really hard sometimes and it did scare me daily on the set. I never had children but I can imagine it’s like having a child, or going through the gestation period. Instead of nine months it was almost nine years and you go through periods of real doubt and self-doubt.”
Returning to television for the first time since Sex and the City, Cattrall plays Davina, a woman on the verge of a mid-life crisis who, along with her husband Al (Don McKellar), shakes the cobwebs off her suburban life by moving downtown.
“It’s the change of the guard, isn’t it? I’m starting to play characters who are of a certain age and it is a feeling of, ‘Am I really ready for this?’ Holding onto yesterday instead of embracing whatever this is,” she says.
The show not only focuses on Davina and Al — “One of the things I’m most proud of is that you really believe Don and I are a couple,” she says. — but also Toronto, the city they call home. She credits McKellar, who also directed the series, with capturing the look and feel of Hogtown.
“He’s made Toronto look like the city it is,” she says. “Which is very difficult to capture. Because he has lived there his whole life, we were shooting in neighbourhoods the crew didn’t even know about. It’s so diverse. The city is almost a character as well. We’ve really given Toronto a midlife crisis too.”
Sensitive Skin premieres Sunday on HBO Canada at 8 p.m. ET/MT.
From top to bottom, left to right, Richard on carpet, Paul Gross, Rick Mercer and The Dirties director Matt Johnson. Richard’s other red carpet guests included Jian Ghomeshi, Sarah Gadon, Kim Cattrall, Don McKellar, Katie Bolan, Bruce McDonald, Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, Nicholas de Pencier, Noah co-directors Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman, the F-Word writer Elan Mastai and Dr. Cabbie star Vinay Virmani.
In “Meet Monica Velour” Kim Cattrall, best known as “Sex and the City’s” iconic Samantha Jones, plays the title character, a former porn star, now a struggling, single mom. Her life changes when she befriends her biggest fan, Tobe (Dustin Ingram), an awkward eighteen-year-old boy who learns to accept her for what she is—she’s really Linda Romanoli—not for what she was.
‘You screw a few hundred guys,” Linda says, “and the whole world turns against you.”
“Meet Monica Velour” could have simply been Tobe’s coming of age story from mouth-breather to maturity, or a seedy look at a former porn star’s sad existence, or a May-December sex comedy but the quality of the performances and writing elevates it to interesting character study.
The character of Dustin is part Napoleon Dynamite, part Seymour from “Ghost World.” He’s a nerdy outsider with a passion for the past, and on the surface, an indie film staple. But Ingram dials back the eccentricity as much as the script allows, lifting the character above the level of cliché. The film could probably live without his underwear dancing scene, but the movie and its director Keith Bearden treat Tobe with respect and not just a quirky collection of personality tics.
As good as Ingram is, this is Catrall’s show. She’s left her “Sex and the City” Louboutins behind to present a rough and ready portrait of a woman on the downside of life. It’s hard not to relate Monica nee Linda’s struggles to create a life outside of her screen persona to Cattrall’s own close identification to Samantha Jones. Linda is not Monica, and Kim is not Samantha and the actress’s performance in this film should go a long way to dampening that association. If anyone sees this small indie film it should establish Cattrall as one of the more interesting performers in her age range.
I was sold on the film after one scene which feels comedic in the moment, but reveals itself to be dripping with pathos. Dustin and Linda have fought, and she’s in tears. Unsure of what to do he asks her an autograph, thinking that he’s about to be asked to leave and will likely never see her again. She flips from wounded woman to porn professional in a heartbeat and asks, “Do you want it on your underwear?”
Funny line, but not a funny situation as it reveals the tawdry way that Monica has learned to approach relationships.
“Meet Monica Velour” could have been just another idiosyncratic indie film, relying on the entertainment value of its quirky characters but Bearden and Cattrall, aided by an able supporting cast, including a scene stealing Brian Dennehy, brings real warmth to the story.
Kim Cattrall wants you to see her new movie Meet Monica Velour.
She’s been doing a great deal of press, but hasn’t restricted herself to only talking to reporters. Her campaign to find an audience for the film includes talking to everyone who’ll listen.
“I feel like a kid passing out my CVs,” she says, relating a story about a woman who approached her at lunch asking about the name of the movie. Cattrall not only gave her the title, but told her where it was playing and how to get there.
“It’s very blissful for me to tell people about something I think is good and that they might enjoy and possibly need in the sense of it being a reflection of something in their lives.”
In Meet Monica Velour Cattrall, best known as Sex and the City’s iconic Samantha Jones, plays the title character, a former porn star, now a struggling, single mom. Her life changes when she befriends her biggest fan, an awkward 18-year-old boy who learns to accept her for what she is, not for what she was.
“I really believe this film should be seen,” she says. “I feel like such a big mouth famous, but Michael Stipe is a friend of mine, and he brought a bunch of people to see the film. A couple of them were younger and they said, ‘We’ve never seen a film like that. We really enjoyed it. It unfolded in a different way.’
“I thought, yes, it’s not about slamming you, or 3-Ding you, or out electronitizing you,” she laughs, “or whatever the words are! Welcome to stories that are about people. That are subtle and nuanced and detailed and three dimensional. Life is not always about huge meteorites heading toward your planet, it’s sometimes just about a page turn.”
The film represents a bit of a page turn for Cattrall. The glamorous star left the Louboutins behind and gained 20 pounds to play the down-on-her-luck Velour. It’s a role Cattrall has been yearning for.
“I’ve waited my whole life in some ways as an actress to say, ‘Look at me,’” she says, “not the images you cast upon me, but me. That’s fantasy. This is reality.”
It’s a reality she desperately wants to share.
“I think it’s an E-ticket because it takes me on a journey. I want to find more movies like this.”