Sarah Jessica Parker has gone from being a four-eyed Square Peg to one of Hollywood’s sexiest stars. Thanks to genetics, she can shun the Stairmaster and still balance on that unfair line of being reed-thin but shapely.
But even more impressive are her quick wit and likability. In the comedy “Miami Rhapsody” (opening Friday at local theaters), Parker displays perfect comedic timing as advertising copywriter Gwyn Marcus, who has recently become engaged to her live-in boyfriend. After Gwyn learns that every member of her family (except her wheelchair-bound grandmother) is having an affair, she begins having second thoughts about marriage.
In real life, the 29-year-old actress has been happily unmarried to actor Matthew Broderick for three years.
Sitting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, where she and director-writer-producer David Frankel are waiting to be interviewed, Parker neatly tucks her mane of blond curls into a ponytail clip high atop her head, lights a Merit and apologizes for the early morning press screening of “Miami Rhapsody.”
“Wait, were those two guys there?” she asks, holding both thumbs up in imitation of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.
She didn’t sound too disappointed when told that they weren’t.
Frankel: I’m surprised you haven’t changed your clothes.
Parker: (Wearing black leggings, a white thermal shirt that’s torn on the left shoulder and black Robert Clergerie platform ankle boots.) Yeah, well. . .
Showcase: I love your shoes.
Parker: Thanks! The truth of the matter is, I had not bought any new shoes in like two years, ’cause I spent too much money doing it. Then we drove past this store, and it was like, “Let’s just go in for a second,” and when we did, that feeling came back to me, and I had to have them. They’re kinda trashed already.
Showcase: It’s easier to dance in shoes that are broken in. Speaking of which, your character in the movie insists she doesn’t dance, but when you and Antonio Banderas (who plays her grandma’s nurse) were in the club, she did quite well. You took ballet for a while, didn’t you?
Parker: I was a ballet dancer for a long time, but I don’t really (club) dance. Ballet is sort of diametrically opposed to what you’re supposed to do on the dance floor. It’s all about being rigid and uptight. In the scene, we were choreographed really specifically, and that I can do. I can follow directions. But I don’t go to clubs and (freestyle). It frightens me.
Showcase: Please tell me that you go through strenuous pains and sweat like a pig to look the way you do.
Parker: (Apologetic laugh.) I don’t work out. I’m built like my brothers, who are built like my father. It’s genetic. I may work out for a specific film, like “L.A. Story,” but I am way too lazy to get up at 5 a.m. and get to a gym. Frankly, I don’t care if I get fat.
Showcase: How did a first-time film director get actors the caliber of Sarah Jessica, Antonio, Mia Farrow. . .
Frankel: I don’t know! It’s not like I knew any of the people beforehand. Actually, I played tennis once years ago with Paul Mazursky (who plays Parker’s father), but he actually came in to audition. I said, “You don’t have to read,” and he said, “I want you to know I’m right for the part. I am right, but I want you to be sure.”
Parker: The truth is that if the script is great, you can get any actor you want. There are not enough great scripts, so any director who has a great script can get good actors. So it’s not that shocking to me that you got good people.
Frankel: It’s a thrilling cast. I never imagined when I wrote the script that I’d get people of such stature to do the film. It made it so much easier for me to have people who were natural and good. It’s very simple then (for the director) because all you have to do is worry about the details. The fun part of filmmaking is watching the characters spring to life.
Showcase: Ordinarily, Sarah Jessica’s role would have gone to a man.
Frankel: Sarah and I have talked since we made the movie, and I told her, “Never play the girlfriend again. You’re a movie star.” It was interesting when we were casting because it was like, “How will we get the man to play opposite her? He’s got the girlfriend role.” You can imagine how frustrating it is for actresses because they go through that all the time. That’s all they get offered.
Showcase: Or the hooker role.
Parker: Which is often more interesting than the girlfriend role.
Showcase: I think a lot of us remember you as being one of the geeky girls in “Square Pegs,” and now you are one of Hollywood’s sex symbols. How did people try to peg you into roles over the years?
Parker: For a solid seven to 10 years, I played the best friend of the pretty girl. I had been told on dozens of occasions that the truth of the matter was that I wasn’t pretty enough to play the pretty girl. And I’m not just saying this – there’s documented evidence. As proud as I am to have been a part of “Square Pegs,” it had an impact that I wasn’t aware of, and people viewed me as sort of cerebral and geeky. It’s funny how things work. It was only when I got “L.A. Story” that anyone thought it was all right that I play the woman that men respond to in any way. And then, of course, if one person says it’s OK, then everyone agrees. But until then, it was an endless struggle and a source of great frustration for me, not because I wanted to play the pretty girl, but because I wanted to work in films in a more challenging way.
Showcase: So when are you and Matthew getting married?
Parker: We don’t know. (Laughs.) Honest.