Chris Noth: Big Deal

Chris Noth, best known as Mr. Big on HBO's "Sex and the City," talks about why Mr. Big is called Mr. Big, and about how important the not-too-big movies he's just made are to him.


Chris Noth (rhymes with "both," not "moth") has been working on TV and in films for nearly 20 years, most memorably as a homicide detective on NBC's acclaimed drama "Law & Order" from 1990 to 1995. But only since playing Mr. Big, the guy Sarah Jessica Parker can't stay away from on HBO's hit series "Sex and the City," has he become a sex symbol. Now CBS has cut a deal with Noth that will allow him to produce and star in his own TV project. Meanwhile, he has three films due for release this year--_Texas Funeral_ in which he plays a cousin to Martin Sheen; Getting to Know You, in which he portrays an Atlantic City high roller; and Searching for Paradise, in which he's a Hollywood star who is the object of a teenager's obsession. And don't count on his recent exit from Sarah Jessica Parker's life on "Sex and the City" being permanent--it's been rumored he may pop up next season.

Q: Are you frustrated that even though you've appeared in 12 movies, you're best known for your TV work?

A: As mundane as it sounds, it's frustrating not getting the kind of pans that make me feel alive. It's hard having to be in that food chain where the great parts are beyond your grasp until you're in that movie that makes $100 million. But then again, I'm happy with the three small movies I have coming up, because they show my act-ing range better than anything I've ever done on TV.

Q: When you were filming "Sex and the City" did you ever wake up in the morning and think, "Time to go get in bed with Sarah Jessica Parker again"?

A: [Laughs] I guess we were in bed a lot. Sex scenes are usually not that much fun, but they were fun with Sarah because we were like kids in a sandbox--we just really played.

Q: Can Sarah ever be bitchy, like her character?

A: I have never once seen her in a bad mood. Not that she's Miss Pollyanna--she can get pissed off, but then the next minute she's laughing. She's got an extraordinary life force in her. Some actors can be nice and every-thing, but there's always that, "I'm gonna take what's mine" thing, I haven't worked with anyone more generous than Sarah, period.

Q: You play Mr. Big so well. Did you take to the role easily?

A: The first sea-Son, I didn't really know how to play Big. All the other characters on the show are incredibly dysfunctional, which means they're incredibly funny. I would say to the creators, "All you have me doing is opening up another good bottle of wine and being remote." But I'm a wild man. I'm woolly, hairy, crazy, nuts, you know?

Q: Not many people know that you grew up seeing your mom on TV---she was a news reporter in New York.

A: It was weird. We lived in Connecticut and when we'd come into New York City, she was like the queen. She knew all the interesting people. She was really beautiful, so some of my rougher friends would say, "Man, I'd love to have sex with your mom." [Laughs]

Q: "What famous women were you hot for as a kid?

A: Faye Dunaway. God almighty. You jerked off to the James Bond girls, but Faye Dunaway was unbelievable.

Q: What was high school like for you?

A: I went to a co-educational high school for rhe arts called The Barlow School and it was wild, man! All the girls were into skinny-dipping. We'd go out in the cornfields, smoke herb, build teepees in the woods and fuck.

Q: Were you a troublemaker?

A: Oh yeah. I drove my mother nuts.

Q: Are you single now?

A: Yeah, I've had a lot of intense, crazy love affairs. I think that as you get older and you're comfortable in your own skin, you're not afraid of being alone. But it's not as easy to fall in love. I don't know if I'm a very good catch--I love women and that gets me into trouble.

Q: Have you ever had phone sex?

A: I met this Australian lady doctor who used to leave these extraordinarily sexy messages, which were like phone sex. But I had to listen very carefully because of the thickness of her accent. It was like, "All right, mate, my pussy's wet," and you're going, "Whoa." I don't know what it is with women doctors. I've met two who were very kinky. [Laughs]

Q: Do you date actresses?

A: I had a very deep relationship with an actress, not a known actress. She was probably the love of my life. It was right before I went to Yale Drama School and we were both very poor.

Q: Now that you're famous, what's your favorite perk?

A: Getting upgraded to first class on an airplane. And I consider it a perk to have people come up to me and tell me they love my work.

Q: Who has been your most surprising fan?

A: Dionne Warwick, When I was walking to Starbucks she drove by, and she got out of her car and ran up to me. I turned to her and said, "You're Dionne Warwick." I started singing her songs because I grew up on her and she stopped me and said, "You're not a fan of mine, I'm a fan of yours! I love 'Law & Order'!" Peter Fonda came up to me on a plane. That was really moving to me, but in the back of my mind I thought, "God, I haven't even done the roles yet." I still feel that my big parts await me.

Q: At the end of last season on "Sex and the City" Mr. Big was engaged to another woman. I think a lot of fans are hoping he doesn't go through with it.

A: I was just on the Universal lot and these two girls pulled up and said, "Don't you marry her!" People are obsessed with this show. I'm not allowed to say if Big's coming back, but I think that he's like a satellite in Carrie's life. He disappears for a while, then all of a sudden he's back.

Q: Why is your character called Mr. Big?

A: They never really say. It can mean a lot of different things: her biggest relationship, or a man whose very successful, a big shot.

Q: Do you get teased for having that as a character name?

A: Not very much. I'm waiting for some drunk girl in a bar to say, "Does that mean you have a big cock?"

Q: And your reply would be?

A: Big enough, baby.


Dennis Hensley interviewed Radha Mitchell for the Dec./Jan. issue of Movieline.