'Do I feel sexy at sixty? Hell yes!' Siren Santa Kim Cattrall ho-ho-holds nothing back as she talks murder, motherhood and the madness of Sex And The City
The last time Kim Cattrall saw Donald Trump, the bouffant-haired billionaire was desperately trying to catch her eye across a swanky Manhattan cocktail bar. Cattrall spotted the giant ego and the Mr Whippy coiffure, before fixing Trump with a dismissive glare and walking away.
It’s all on film for the world to see. Alas, the President-elect is not about to get drawn into another sex scandal on the back of this embarrassing brush-off. The sleazy episode took place while both were filming a scene for Sex And The City in 1999.
Ask her if she remembers the moment Trump walked on set for his cameo in the show that made her name and she raises an eyebrow imperiously.
Kim Cattrall talks about dressing up as a saucy Santa for our exclusive Event shoot. Does she feel sexy? ‘Hell yes,’ she says.
‘To be honest, he was pretty insignificant. I did so many scenes – sex scenes – that absolutely shocked myself. Samantha was scandalous. When the show ended, I told the crew, “I have boldly gone where no other woman in television has gone before”, so no, I don’t really remember that scene with Mr Trump at all.’
Seventeen years on, we meet on the morning of the US election, before The Donald’s unexpected triumph. ‘Sam always had good taste in men and Trump is repulsive, ignorant, terrifying, vile,’ Cattrall says savagely as she bites into a plump blueberry at her regular New York breakfast haunt, the Regency Hotel, just a few blocks from her home.
Despite her cutting remarks, she didn’t take part in the vote. ‘I am a Canadian resident and I hold dual British and Canadian citizenship [she was born in Liverpool in 1956], which means I can’t vote,’ she says. ‘But it does not mean I can’t say exactly what I think, and if Trump wins I will probably be going back to Canada. I will be there for Christmas and maybe I’ll just stay.’
It’s easy to see why Trump set his sights on Cattrall. Heads turn when she walks into the restaurant. Like Marilyn Monroe, she has an easy va-va-voom and she knows it. At the age of 60, she has great skin, large hazel eyes and a killer figure (‘I’ve been on a diet since 1974,’ she jokes) and looks remarkably natural. ‘Well a bit of Botox for a line on my forehead,’ she says. ‘But nothing else – I’m a product of healthy eating, exercise, no sunbathing and natural skin care.’
Build a snowman or go ice-skating? 'Building a snowman. Let it snow.' Favourite Christmas TV show? 'None. My favourite thing to do is cook. Every day.'
She talks about dressing up as a saucy Santa for our exclusive Event shoot and she practically purrs as she shows off the images on her phone. Does she feel sexy? ‘Hell yes,’ she says. ‘And at this time of year we all need something to make us feel good.’
As an actress, Cattrall is still in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. This Christmas she is the star of one of the BBC’s brightest baubles, leading a cast including Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novella, The Witness For The Prosecution, set in London in the Twenties.
Cattrall plays Emily French, a lonely heiress who befriends a young chancer (Billy Howle). When a murder is committed, Howle looks to his girlfriend (Riseborough) and his lawyer (Jones) to prove his innocence.
The story is told with no expense spared on the lavish sets and costumes, though the drama is rumoured to have added more sex and violence to Christie’s tale, similar to last Christmas’s adaptation, And Then There Were None, which was a big ratings success.
Despite her iconic status as one of Manhattan’s most memorable singletons in Sex And The City, Cattrall still considers herself a Brit: over breakfast she drinks tea, says she is a big fan of Woman’s Hour and reveals that when she dies she will be buried in Liverpool.
Cattrall (right) with Kristin Davies, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon in Sex And The City
‘There is a headstone waiting with my name, my birthdate and then a dash and space for the date of my death,’ she says. ‘It’s a family grave and there is space left for me – so I know wherever it happens I’m going to end up in Liverpool.’
On the set of The Witness For The Prosecution, Cattrall surprised Jones and Riseborough by ordering fish and chips and leading a pilgrimage to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. Their former captain, Steven Gerrard, is a good friend.
‘He’s living in Los Angeles right now but I’m waiting for him to come home. I think he would be a lot happier back in Liverpool,’ she teases, clearly aware that Gerrard would announce his retirement from professional football the following week and return to the UK.
Can Liverpool win the League? ‘Are you kidding me?’ She lets out a gutsy laugh and raises her fist. ‘Of course we can. All the way.’
Although Cattrall first came to prominence as a blonde bimbo in the outrageous comedies Porky’s and Police Academy, she has also done serious drama, appearing in Chekhov and Arthur Miller plays and starring as Cleopatra in a Sir Peter Hall stage production in 2010. She cites two pieces of advice she received along the way to explain her choices.
HOW KIM WILL SLEIGH CHRISTMAS
Mistletoe or wine (and if mistletoe, who are you kissing?) Why can’t I have both? And that would be telling.
Turkey or goose? And who’s cooking? I’m cooking. And I’m cooking both.
Midnight mass or mulled wine at home? Mulled wine at home with friends.
Giving or receiving? Both – you can’t do one without the other. That’s no fun at all.
Christmas pud or trifle? That’s a tough one but trifle wins out.
Carol singing or Sinatra on Spotify? I love carols. As a child I sang Away In A Manger in a choir in Liverpool Cathedral. It still makes me cry.
It’s A Wonderful Life or White Christmas? It’s A Wonderful Life. I love Jimmy Stewart.
Queen’s Speech or board games? The Queen’s Speech – on podcast. I think the Queen is fantastic.
Tree – real or fake? Fake. I buy them with the lights already on – who has time for putting on all those lights?
Build a snowman or go ice-skating? Building a snowman. Let it snow.
Favourite Christmas TV show? None. My favourite thing to do is cook. Every day. On Boxing Day the turkey becomes a curry. Never underestimate the leftovers
‘I worked with Kris Kristofferson on a movie when I was younger [Miracle In The Wilderness]. I couldn’t understand why a rock star like him was doing this film. He laughed at me and said: “I’m paying my mortgage.”
'Working with Jack Lemmon in the Eighties [Tribute, 1980] I asked him for advice. He said: “Take projects that scare you.” But you can’t do one without the other. I took the fluffy work to pay for doing other things.’
The Witness For The Prosecution is one of those projects she cares about – indeed, she’d considered producing it herself in the West End three years ago.
‘I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie,’ she says. ‘She’s often dismissed and thought of only as a crime writer. People think of Poirot and The Mousetrap but if you read her books [Cattrall has read most of Christie’s works] you see she’s a great writer who creates particularly brilliant, complicated parts for women – all ages of women.
‘It’s a brilliant adaptation, set in a different era [from the famous 1957 film starring Marlene Dietrich] and Emily’s rich and glamorous, but she’s also vulnerable, frightened and in the rather humiliating position of paying a younger man £5 a day to be her companion. That gives her a depth that makes her very real and human. It says something about the condition of women that is still relevant today – that the woman you see on the outside is not the woman she is on the inside.’
Cattrall is obsessed with the perception of women – particularly older women. In her own way, like Samantha in Sex And The City, she is a rule-breaker, which makes it all the more surprising when she says she turned the part down three times before she was finally persuaded to take it on.
‘When the show began I was 41. I felt I was too old to be sexy, I was being ageist about myself. It was 1997 and a woman over 40 back then was just not viewed as vital or desirable. I didn’t think I could pull it off. I didn’t think people would believe in her like they did. But I was absolutely wrong. Samantha broke the mould for the older woman.’
She continues to forge her own path and this Christmas, when she returns to her big house on Vancouver Island, she will not be accompanied by her husband or her children because after three marriages she is now single and she never had children.
The house will be filled with friends and family – including her two sisters and brother and her mother, Gladys, and nephews and nieces. Cattrall will be in the kitchen cooking.
‘It will be a turkey, goose or fish, but most likely all three,’ she says. ‘Everyone brings something, whether it’s a pie or a cake or a salad, and we just spend the day laughing, talking over old times, cooking, looking at the lake. I love Christmas.
‘The weather in Vancouver is pretty much like it is in England at that time of year – cold, fresh, Christmassy. It’s the one time of year you just switch off and relax. I love to cook but I don’t get stressed. I like to go in and out of the kitchen, have drinks with guests, have drinks in the kitchen – cooking, eating, being together is one of the simplest, greatest pleasures in life.’
Last year she prompted outrage when she went on Woman’s Hour and said she felt that although she had no children of her own she had been a mother in her own way to nephews and nieces and youngsters she had mentored throughout the years.
Many of the women on Mumsnet disagreed, claiming this was ‘in no way’ actual motherhood. She shrugs and says: ‘What I was trying to say was that as a woman I had maternal feelings and I have been able to express those feelings in different ways with my siblings’ children and with young kids – girls in particular – who I’ve got to know over the years.’
Kim Cattrall as Emily French in The Witness For The Prosecution
The truth about motherhood and Cattrall is more complex, as she opens up for the first time about this traumatic period of her life.
‘When I was married to my second husband, Andre J Lyson [Cattrall’s first marriage to Larry David was annulled and her third marriage, to musician Mark Levinson, ended in 2004] I wanted to have children. Women are ruled by a biological clock and I was no exception.
‘The difference was, nothing happened. I went to my doctor and he told me that it could happen but I would have to accept that I would become something of a science experiment. It was the very early days of IVF – it wasn’t something that was known a lot about or talked a lot about like it is now.
‘But I didn’t want to become a science experiment. And then I thought that if I felt like that, then I didn’t want a baby enough to make that not an issue. And so I accepted that it wasn’t going to be the path for me and I made peace with it.
‘You cannot live with regrets – it was my choice and it was the right choice for me. I’m happy with my life. I feel very connected to a lot of young people in my life, I don’t have a husband but I date and I know I don’t want to get married ever again. I don’t want to put that stamp on another relationship or worry about finding that man. I know what I want, I know what I like and that works for me.’
And while Cattrall describes herself as ‘sexy, independent and satisfied’ she also says she’s ‘vulnerable and scared’.
What is she scared of? ‘Being invisible, being irrelevant, left behind by not keeping up with technology. I sometimes think people want to meet me so they can see how I have aged,’ she says. ‘I have passed the Rubicon of 50 and for someone who works in a visual medium, whose youth is preserved in film, that is a very big deal.’
After SATC ended in 2004, she was showered with offers from Hollywood and TV networks but turned them down in favour of a critically acclaimed part as a paralysed woman who wants to die in a West End revival of Whose Life Is It Anyway? She has also starred in a series of TV shows including a Bafta-winning adaptation of William Boyd’s Any Human Heart.
‘My agents were tearing their hair out,’ she says. ‘Because I was saying: “No” to some serious money.
‘SATC made good money but it didn’t make the sort of money like the stars of Friends or Will & Grace made because it was an HBO show, which meant no advertisers and therefore less cash. The repeat fees aren’t worth speaking about. But I had enough for a home and a good life and I didn’t want to just keep playing the same version of that one role. Or being the Hollywood mum.
‘There are very few good roles for older women in Hollywood. Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep are not the rule, they are the exception. It is an industry that celebrates, promotes and idolises youth, and you can’t fight that. Ageing is seen as a disease no one wants to catch, but it happens to us all.
‘My choice was to go to England and work in theatre. The idea terrified me – every night I’m on stage terrifies me – but I love the work there. Britain is less caught up in youth, it’s an older society. Shakespeare wrote parts for real, older women in his plays. You have great female writers, great actors, great opportunities for all ages – so I chose Britain.’
Despite the varied career, she will always be best known as Samantha from SATC. It’s a legacy that helped make her name and allowed her to mould her own career, but it’s also come at a cost to her relationships.
‘It puts a lot of men off,’ she says. ‘People have an impression of me that is not actually me at all. Either they think that’s what I’m like and that’s what they expect – or it just puts them off. Americans in particular are terrified of sex. But that was a character. It wasn’t me.
'There were so many times I’d read my script and be speechless with shock about what she was going to say and do next. Sam was outrageous. It was always scary but definitely liberating to play her. But I am not Sam.’
In her own way Catrall, like Samantha in Sex And The City, is a rule-breaker
There have been two SATC movies since the show ended, which have done phenomenally well at the box office despite being panned by the critics. The last one was released in 2010 and there are currently no plans for more outings for the cocktail-quaffing quartet.
Would she be interested in filming any more? ‘Absolutely not,’ she says and leans forward. ‘Sex And The City was a fantasy. It has to stay a fantasy. We all need a little fantasy in our lives.’
Parts 1 & 2 of ‘The Witness For The Prosecution’ are on Boxing Day and December 27, BBC1 at 9pm
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