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Sex In The City creator’s new romantic comedy falls for Paris

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US producer, director and film writer Darren Star poses with his ‘Cannes Series Award’ trophy for his career in television and cinema at MIPCOM – the world’s biggest television and entertainment market – on October 14 in Cannes, France. AFP

Sex In The City creator’s new romantic comedy falls for Paris

He has a string of hits from Sex In The City to Beverly Hills 90210 under his belt, but legendary showrunner Darren Star wanted the ground to open underneath him on the first day of shooting his new television show.

Emily in Paris is a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy about an American marketing executive living the dream in the French capital.

Except that Emily – played by Lily Collins, the actress daughter of pop star Phil Collins – is in over her head, without a word of the language.

“The first scene we actually shot was with her Chinese friend who is telling her how mean the French are,” Star said.

“I thought ‘Oh no, we are filming this in Paris with all these nice French people in the crew.’ But actually I think they got a kick out of it,” laughed Star, one of the most successful TV producers ever.

The frisson of cultural tension runs almost as strong as the romance through the show – which is due to air next year – with Star admitting that he “has great fun with cultural misunderstandings but also the exchanges”.

“We play on it a bit,” Star said. “But the French bash us too, and the French characters just kill her.

“We try to see their side too.”

After all, “she is an American who comes in tone deaf to the culture”.

Love hate relationship

French bashing may have become a social media bloodsport in the States, but Star is a fan of both the country and the people.

While US President Donald Trump complained loudly on Twitter that “Paris is no longer Paris” – and rarely misses a chance to do France down – Star begs to differ.

“It is a good time to leave the United States for a while,” he observed wryly of his four months shooting the first series in the French capital.

“And the longer I am here the more I like it,” he added.

Star said Trump has a “love-hate relationship with Paris. And a lot of Americans have that attitude for sure”.

But underneath all that, “people have a real affinity with France and a real love affair with Paris in particular. And there has never been a TV series that taps into that”.

A little like Sex In The City did with New York, “the nice thing about this show is that it gives the viewer the opportunity to go on that vicarious journey with her”.

“We are living through her, and it is definitely romantic and glamorous” with Collins’ character Emma working in the luxury goods trade which brings her into contact with the worlds of fashion, wine and haute cuisine.

‘Gift for romantic comedy’

“But she also has struggles. She is from Chicago and she wasn’t the person who was meant to go to Paris for her job. And really [her new Parisian colleagues] are not happy to see her.

“She is also a strong-willed Midwestern girl who comes in with a lot of ideas. She is bubbly and nice, and they do not like that either,” Star said amid a round of meetings at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market, in the French Riviera resort of Cannes.

“So she gets stepped on a lot at the beginning but she kind of catches on.”

Star believes the series could run and run and was lavish in his praise of Collins, 30, who won rave reviews for her performance as Fantine in the BBC adaptation of Les Miserables earlier this year.

“Lily is such a star,” he declared. “It is dangerous to do a show with her if you only want to do one season, people are going to like her.”

The writer and producer said she has a “real gift for romantic comedy and she brings so much of herself to it”.

French actress Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu from the hit series Call My Agent! stars opposite her, with the French cast translating their own lines from English.

Star said that series was shot “like a movie” and it was “very much in the vein of the wonderful romantic comedies” no longer made in Hollywood.

Even after nearly four months in the French capital, the beauty of the place still takes Star by surprise.

“I have the opposite of Paris Syndrome,” a condition sometimes suffered by Japanese tourists shocked that the city is different to their expectations.

“I think the show meets all your fantasies of Paris. And we don’t have to work hard to find it.”

He said Emmy may live in a tiny attic apartment but “all she has to do is to stick her head out the window to see beauty”.

Star’s only worry is that his main locations in the Latin Quarter are so pretty that “people will think it is not real, it so looks like a backlot. But it is”.

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