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In the past year or so, Sarah Jessica Parker has been busy turning herself into a one-woman cottage industry, equal parts actress and businesswoman—talking molecules with fragrance developers, attending weekly design meetings for Bitten, her new clothing line for the low-price chain Steve & Barry’s, and shooting two upcoming features, Smart People, opposite Dennis Quaid and Thomas Haden Church, and Spinning Into Butter, with Beau Bridges and Miranda Richardson—both of which seem likely to introduce audiences to a Parker they’ve never met before.

With the recent announcement of the Sex and the City movie finally getting the green light, Parker will have to carve out a bit more space on her already remarkably full plate. Maggie Bullock catches up with the modern icon and gets her take on everything from her favorite scents to the key to a successful Hollywood marriage. Read the full interview in this month’s ELLE magazine, on newsstands now. Photographed by Gilles Bensimon.

“James Wilkie is so conscious now of the time we spend together,” she says of her four-and-a-half-year-old. “I try to be home to tuck him in at least four nights a week, and if I’m not, he’s not letting me get away with anything. The other night I was sitting with him on the steps before Matthew and I went out to the theater, and he looked at me and said, ‘Mama, this has got to stop. Go upstairs and take that dress off.'”

“Actually, it’s not hard to be a private couple,” Parker says. “I see some people who do it really well, and then I see people who make me skeptical about their deep desire to be so private. It’s like, ‘Are you sure that’s what you really want?'” She and Broderick learned long ago to avoid the dual red-carpet walk. “That’s where they get you. Suddenly it becomes, ‘Oh, when are you guys going to have another baby?'” she says, in a tone firmly implying that, if she were to tell, it wouldn’t be to anyone wielding a tape recorder. “We try not to talk about the relationship. It’s not that we’re not proud; it’s just that’s the kiss of death.”

“I am hopeful. I believe this time it’s going to happen,” Parker says, choosing her words. It turns out her optimistic attitude was well-warranted: Just last week, it was revealed that HBO and New Line Cinema would have all four ladies reprising their roles in a big-screen version of the Emmy Award-winning series. After three years of eager whispers, Parker and her co-stars can finally clear the air. “I really wanted it to happen, and it was a bitter pill to swallow that it didn’t,” Parker says, setting the record straight. “But you have to respect people’s decisions. And one of us didn’t want to do it at the time, meaning Kim [Catrall], for reasons that I didn’t ask. It’s not for me to talk anybody into anything, ever-creatively, financially, or whatever.”

After the show, there were plenty of opportunities to cash in on Carrie. Shrewdly, Parker chose to brand Sarah Jessica instead. “I know this about me: I will only do something that I can completely and utterly, for better or worse, take the credit, take the blame for, 100 percent,” she says. Indeed, the bigwigs at Coty seem bemused by just how deeply she plunged herself into her two fragrances—two-year-old Lovely and, new this month, Covet—obsessing over everything from the herringbone-pattern box to the ultraspecific note of geranium in the scent itself (“I like that the plant was pulled from the earth, so you smell all the green of the sand and the dirt, and just a little bit of those petals on the bottom,” Parker says).

“Carrie loved the hits and she loved the misses, and I loved being able to wear all that without being indicted for it in my own life,” the actress says. “But I would never consider wearing some of the outfits she wore. Like, ever. The last thing I need is to call attention to myself when I walk down the street.”

Parker picked Steve & Barry’s—a chain of big-box stores that says (with no apparent sense of irony) its mission is to change the world because she wanted to offer women the little-black-dress equivalent of a $14.98 sneaker designed by New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury—which is, to date, Steve & Barry’s biggest success. “There are millions of kids in America who spend $210, $220 on a pair of freaking sneakers that, by the way, are going to go out of fashion in no time,” Parker says. “Stephon Marbury creates this shoe, and it’s the shoe that he is really playing in on the court. And it’s $15. And kids can have a really cool pair of shoes, and their parents can live with themselves. The idea that quality shouldn’t be a privilege and that luxury shouldn’t be just exclusive? I love that.”