Thursday 18 July 2019

'Jamie Dornan does nothing for me. He's a boy. Now Brendan Gleeson - he has a twinkle in his eye'

KIM CATTRALL tells LIZ KEARNEY why she won't be watching Fifty Shades of Grey - and why her new comedy is light years away from Sex and the City

Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall and Don McKellar in Sensitive Skin
The cast of Sex and the City Newsdesk Newsdesk

Kim Cattrall is on the phone in her house in Long Island Sound, looking out on a bay filled with ice and snow, and telling me exactly why she has no intention whatsoever of seeing Fifty Shades of Grey.

It's Jamie Dornan. He's just not hot enough.

"Maybe it's my age, but he doesn't look like a man to me. He looks like a young boy. I like men to look like men. I saw the preview and you know they say in three seconds you can tell if you find someone attractive or not? Well, I just thought, 'no'.

"Now, if he were Brendan Gleeson - well, there's a little something going on there, you know, the twinkle in the eye… "

Right so. Brendan Gleeson, 1, Jamie Dornan, nil. Fifty Shades sequel producers, take note.

It's hard not to grin at the notion of Cattrall snubbing Dornan, an underwear model-turned-actor. To women of a certain generation, Cattrall (58) will forever be Samantha Jones, the sexually voracious Sex and the City character whose most enduring relationship was with Smith Jerrod, an underwear model-turned-actor.

But Cattrall, of course, is not Samantha, and the honeyed voice purring down the line on this transatlantic call is far less brassy than Samantha's strident tones. Anyway, Sex and the City itself, as Cattrall herself points out, is ancient history. Has she put the character behind her?

"Well, Sam is behind me," she says, "in the sense that it's over. And whatever speculation there is (about a sequel), there is no script on my desk or anyone else's right now. I miss it sometimes. I feel very nostalgic for it, and the excitement for it."

Nostalgia and dealing with change has been a theme for Cattrall of late. Last year she teamed up with drug company Pfizer to become an official spokeswoman for the menopause, of all things, and her latest TV role is as a middle-aged woman in search of a fresh start.

Sensitive Skin, a Canadian remake of a 2005 BBC series starring Joanna Lumley, is a small gem of a show. It's wry and engaging and warm, and Cattrall is excellent as Davina, a former model who along with her neurotic columnist husband Al, has traded in the suburban family home for a hip downtown Toronto apartment in a bid to stave off middle-aged inertia.

Permanently swathed in grey cashmere cardigans and elegant wrap dresses, Davina flits between the art gallery where she has a part-time job and her virtually empty apartment (like Steve Jobs before her, Davina can't find any furniture she likes), fantasising about cheating on her husband while trying to figure out exactly who she is and just how, and with whom, she's going to live the rest of her life.

Cattrall has years of experience batting away pesky journalists like me, so any attempt I make to link Davina's slightly-later-than midlife crisis with her own situation - Cattrall will turn 60 next year - is gently but firmly quashed. For instance, when I ask her about the long scenes where Davina gazes at her reflection in assorted bathroom mirrors, which seem so obviously a comment on how women who've built a career on their sex appeal struggle with ageing, she just laughs. "Those moments are about ageing, but they are also about checking in with the reflection of yourself and asking what's really going on," she says. "We women - and men - do spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. We are asking: 'Who's there?' I wanted the audience to contemplate [Davina's] contemplation, and maybe contemplate their own.

"Most of us are working so hard, and we have so many jobs - mum, sister, auntie, employer, employee - and we are so busy all the time, we don't have the time to think, who am I? And the physical manifestation of ageing is so much more prominent than the emotional one. You realise you don't have the energy you did any more."

Consumerism promises to make us happy, adds Cattrall, but then it doesn't deliver - a sentiment anyone who sat through the abysmal product-obsessed second Sex and the City movie will endorse.

But family might not make you happy either. Davina's awful son Orlando is furious at his parents for moving out of his childhood home and blames them for almost everything that's wrong with his pathetic, unhappy life. Are all millennials, the Girls generation if you will, so utterly self-absorbed? But Cattrall is not taking this bait either.

"Everyone is very self-absorbed," she says. "I feel it's part of the human condition."

Cattrall was born in Liverpool but moved to Canada with her parents when she was just three months old. She considers herself both British and Canadian, but spends much of her time these days at home on Long Island.

Her early career included starring roles in 1980s hits like Porky's and Mannequin, but it was in the HBO mega-hit Sex and the City, which first aired in 1998 and documented the lives and loves of four sharp-tongued Manhattanites, that she became a household name.

Cattrall herself has had a colourful private life: married three times, her first marriage was annulled, the second and third ended in divorce. Somewhat embarrassingly, her third marriage, to Mark Levinson, ended shortly after the couple co-wrote a sex book called Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm.

Since Sex and the City, Cattrall has enjoyed several high-profile theatre roles, worked with Roman Polanski and the aforementioned Brendan Gleeson on the poorly-received The Tiger's Tail, a story of greed gone mad in Celtic Tiger Dublin.

She'll return to Dublin this month for a screening of Sensitive Skin at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. She's keen on the city, she says, particularly the pubs. "We went to three or four at the [Tiger's Tail] wrap party, but I had too much to drink to remember the names," she says.

What about her Sex and the City co-stars? Does she still see them? Not often, she says. "When we do get together it's lovely. It's like being with an old college chum.

"But three of them have kids - and when I got to that point with girlfriends that started having kids, we kind of fell into two groups."

Cattrall is philosophical about the fact she has no children of her own. "There was a period where I imagined that I would have children, but then it became clear the timing was never really right.

"But I realised there were different ways for me to be a mum. I love to mentor young actors and I feel in a way like Sensitive Skin is still my baby."

As Cattrall approaches her seventh decade, a time when actresses regularly complain all the meaty roles have vanished, what does she hope the future holds? More acting, more producing, more writing? A little of everything, she says.

"I have been so fortunate in receiving so much more than I ever thought I would or could. We landed in Canada with next to nothing and I have achieved so many positive things for my family and for the people I love. I would like just to continue doing exactly what I'm doing."

Sensitive Skin begins on Sky Arts on April 1. The JDIFF Sensitive Skin event takes place on Thursday, March 26. To book, visit

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