Kim Cattrall and Dustin Ingram in Meet Monica Velour
Kim Cattrall and Dustin Ingram in Meet Monica Velour
It's not always easy for a star -- no matter how well-established -- to break away from a character she's become closely associated with. For Kim Cattrall, who has become internationally famous as Sex and the City's Samantha Jones, her current unflinching portrayal of the title character in the new film Meet Monica Velour, might finally separate the actress from Samantha once and for all.

An overweight, down-and-out porn star, Monica is light years away from Samantha, the sexually adventurous, super-successful publicist she played in the hit TV series and two film adaptations. "People really do confuse you with the roles you play," says Cattrall, who actually gained 20 pounds -- which she has since lost -- to play Monica. "Actually, our writer and director, Keith Braden, wanted me to gain 35 pounds, but I felt that wouldn't have been healthy. It was fun to eat whatever I wanted -- and after all I was dating a chef."

Nonetheless, Cattrall says seeing her "new look" on screen was not always easy to get used to. "I'll admit that it was scary with no makeup and some days they'd fix the lights so I looked even older and even more overweight and just awful. It was really hard to watch the dailies," she says. But my motto has always been: Do the thing that scares you."

The film tells the story of Tobe (Dustin Ingram), a huge Monica Velour fan with the scrapbooks to prove it, who decides to take a cross country road trip in his grandfather's "weinermobile" -- a van with a giant weiner on top -- to meet his favorite 1980s porn star. And when he actually does get to meet Monica, he sees only his idol, not the broken-down single mom, performing in a local strip club to survive, that she has become.

Kim Cattrall in Private Lives
(© Nobby Clark)
Kim Cattrall in Private Lives
(© Nobby Clark)
"You know, I had the opportunity to meet President Obama a while back," Cattrall remembers. "And he was kind enough to ask what I was doing now. I said I had just finished shooting a little movie and I described it as a kind of update of a film like Harold and Maude about a young man and an older woman, and he said, 'Who plays the older woman?' I just love him!"

Despite Cattrall's marquee name, the film was shot without a distributor attached. It was eventually shown at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, but wasn't picked up for release until afterwards. "I'm just so happy it's finally coming out," says Cattrall.

The film is just one of the many projects that has kept the British-born and Canadian-bred Cattrall busy in the past few years, including her stint as Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse; her fascinating television appearance in 2009 on the American version of Who Do You Think You Are?, where Cattrall tracked down a family mystery surrounding her absentee grandfather; and a role in Roman Polanski's film The Ghost Writer.

Most recently, Cattrall played Amanda in Richard Eyre's hugely successful West End revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives, which is scheduled to play Toronto's Royal Alexandria Theatre in September, before hopefully coming to Broadway next season. "What drives me is my curiosity," she says.