In the grand scheme of Hollywood marriages, what’s most unusual about Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick’s relationship might just be how normal it is.
After dating for about five years, their May 19, 1997, wedding was the first and only for each of them. Now they raise their three children — son James Wilkie, born in 2002, and twins Tabitha and Marion, born in 2009 — in New York City’s Greenwich Village, with the firm belief that their fame and status can’t get in the way of their family life.
“I love Matthew Broderick,” Parker told Harper’s Bazaar in 2013 of her husband. “Call me crazy, but I love him. We can only be in the marriage we are. We're very devoted to our family and our lives. I love our life. I love that he’s the father of my children, and it’s because of him that there’s this whole other world that I love.”
That commitment to each other — and to their children — has kept their relationship tight for the last 20-plus years. But when asked what the secret is, Broderick joked on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy in November 2020, “I don’t know. I keep reading communication and she’s my best friend — any cliché you want!”
But he quickly clarified, “You want a little more romance and grit… than just your best pal,” before declaring, “I don't know the secret at all, but I'm very grateful and I love her and it's amazing.”
Before Broderick, Parker dated Robert Downey Jr. and John F. Kennedy Jr.
Even before they met, Broderick made an impression on Parker. She clearly remembers watching his film War Games in 1983 while she was filming Footloose, seeing a screening of 1985’s Ladyhawke with an agent, and catching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with her pal, actress Martha Plimpton, at a theater in New York City’s Columbus Circle.
“It’s not like I had my sights set on him, but I was aware of him as an actor because I liked his work so much,” she told Parade. He also recalled seeing her in 1991’s L.A. Story, and “thinking she was wonderful, hilarious and beautiful,” he told the magazine.
Both established in the industry, they had their share of high-profile romances. Parker dated Robert Downey, Jr., for seven years, after they met on the set of 1984’s Firstborn when they were both 18. She then briefly dated John F. Kennedy Jr., after they met at the theater, but she was put off by the attention. “We would go places where there wasn't a soul around, and the next day I'd see pictures of us there in the tabloids,” she told The New York Times in 1992. Broderick had dated Helen Hunt and his Ferris Bueller costar Jennifer Grey.
They first met through Parker's brother
Parker and Broderick’s paths finally crossed in November 1991 when he directed a play at the Naked Angels theater company that Parker's older brother Toby was in and he became friends with both Toby and her other brother Pippin.
“My memory is that literally months passed when I didn’t ask her for a date,” Broderick told The New York Times, while Parker quickly responded, “Your memory is correct.”
Parker’s memory is far sharper — she remembers the date he called: February 1, 1992. “He left a very charming, very self-effacing message on the machine. You know, ‘Hi, it’s Matthew Broderick,'’’ she said, then directing to him, “You had to use your last name.”
In 1996, they mixed business with pleasure when Parker joined the cast of the Broadway revival of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He had already been in the lead role of J. Pierrepont Finch since the show opened in March 1995, when she stepped in as his love interest Rosemary Pilkington.
‘’The part that takes some adjusting and is a little uncomfortable for me is I have a slight feeling of dangling our couplehood around Times Square,” Broderick told The New York Times in 1996. But he also added, “I think she's great in the part...I guess if I didn't, that would be awkward."
By that point, they were also living together. “The last 48 hours or so, Matthew has had this running joke about us, we work together, we eat together, we sleep together, we wake up together, we work together, we eat together, we sleep together,” Parker said. “It occurred to me that that was a dangerous part of this, that our world would become very small. There was always something nice about sharing your experiences. Now, all of a sudden our experiences are the same, and I don't feel like I'm bringing a lot to the table.”
One of their parties turned into their surprise wedding
Having survived working and living together, the couple moved on to the next phase of their lives. “Matthew and I come from a different time and place,” Parker told Harper’s Bazaar. “When we were young people, all we ever wanted was to be good working actors. We didn't think of fame or money because, honestly, money was never part of the dream. It was to work in theater, to be around those people whose work I was in total awe of. I never saw the trappings; nobody talked about being a celebrity.”
Of course fame did come into the picture, especially when they decided to wed. “When our marriage came up in conversation, it wouldn't occur to us that we were obligated to respond to allegations or gossip,” she explained. “You have to be a bit circumspect, but you also have to take up a position, and you have to stick to it.”
So they handled it in a way they knew best. They invited 100 friends for a party on May 19, 1997, which instead turned out to be their surprise wedding. Just to ensure there was nothing traditional, Parker wore a black wedding dress.
They've faced many false claims about their marriage but keep a united front
Both actors’ careers continued to thrive, as Parker became known for Sex and the City and Broderick continued with headline roles on stage and screen, most notably in the 1999’s Election and Broadway’s The Producers, which then became a 2005 film. With that lurked the public’s interest in their personal lives.
By the eve of their 20th anniversary, Parker was tired of shooting down rumors and took to Instagram, posting a screenshot of fact-checking inquiry she received from The National Enquirer, attempting to plant trouble in their marriage.
“Over a decade of the same untrue, disgraceful nonsense,” she wrote on Instagram in May 2019. “As usual, days ahead of our anniversary on May 19th, The National Enquirer is making its annual best effort to fabricate and undermine, this time a blissful 4 days with my husband in London.”
As proof of just how tight their union is, Broderick and Parker teamed up again for the stage in the Neil Simon play Plaza Suite, in which they play three couples at different stages of their relationships, but all in the same suite.
Parker posted that she would get to work with “an actor whom I get to love onstage and off” as the two actors played the six roles. “I feel I’ve waited a lifetime,” she posted on Instagram of the 17-week run on Broadway, originally scheduled for 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic paused the show.
But the pandemic did give them time to reflect on the experience of working together on the play. “I was just reminded of how funny and smart and what a great comic actor she is, or actor, never mind the comic part… She's very good at it…. I hope everybody gets to see her do it," Broderick said on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy.
The couple's biggest focus is their children
Despite their successes, separate and together, it ultimately comes down to their kids.
“We always feel that as long as one parent is home and really present, then we can care for our children’s desires,” Parker told Parade. “We go as a family on the subway; we walk; we do everything we want to do. Sometimes people approach us, sometimes they don’t. We don’t want to live anywhere else or travel by cars with bodyguards.”
She added to People “Our lives are unpredictable, and we’re not always here when we want to be. We can’t always do drop-off and pick-up. But I’m proud that our children talk to us in the way they do. I’m glad they’re curious people.”
Perhaps most importantly, they realize that nothing is static — and that’s what keeps it exciting. “Your needs are shifting. You and your partner are going to change,” she continued. “It seems so silly, but I think you’re very lucky if you like the person. I still just really like him. I’m sure I annoy him and he annoys me, but I literally learn about him every day.”