NEW YORK - Candace Bushnell gets credit for writing the "Sex and the City" book, and Darren Star gets credit for creating the TV show. Patricia Field gets credit for making the show a fashion phenomenon, and Sarah Jessica Parker - with Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth - get credit for turning "Sex" from a cult HBO hit into a franchise of feminine friendship.

But Michael Patrick King, more than any single individual, is the person who makes Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda tick. He's the man behind the Manolos.

The 53-year-old Scranton native was the show-runner/executive producer for much of "Sex and the City's" TV run. He wrote 20 of the episodes, directed 10 of them and was largely responsible for juggling the show's numerous relationships and plot points. Now he's taken on the role of writer and director for the "Sex and the City" movie (opening tomorrow night in selected theaters, Friday everywhere else).

"One of the fun things about directing the movie was that I could concentrate only on this story," King said during a recent press event in a ballroom at Manhattan's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. "I didn't have to run to another room and think about the next ten stories we were trying to build."

The other major difference for King working on the movie was the excitement surrounding the production all over New York. Wherever he tried to film there were crowds - and spies.

So, although King said that he had nothing to do with the plotline death rumor that enveloped the Internet, he doesn't seem too upset that red herrings were thrown out to keep "Sex" bloodhounds off the scent.

"I don't know where they came up," King said of the death subplot. "First thing I heard was, 'You killed Mr. Big.' And I was like, 'Then get me out of town in the dark of night. Wrap me up and get me away from every woman in the world who will kill me for killing Mr. Big.' That would be like Roy Rogers shooting Trigger. What's the point of that? He's the horse that everybody rode in on.

"I think there's enough drama in women's lives to create drama . . . but maybe it started because my very first version of the script was gigantic. I always wanted the movie to span a year, and when I printed out the first version of my script it was 365 pages. Then I had to start trimming the Christmas tree down - there were too many ornaments on it.

"And one of the amazing stories that I loved, because I love her so much, was that Anne Meara, Steve's mother, was in a rest home, and there was a thought that maybe she would die in the movie. But then the whole movie got too big."

"Moviemaking is very expensive," King said. "There really was only one ending to the movie. What we did do is change how and where it was shot. The ending of the movie was supposed to be outside, but once I saw what was happening [with mobs of fans] I was like, 'We're not going anywhere near outside.' "

King said that one of the themes he knew he wanted "Sex" to address "was how twentysomething women become fortysomething women. I knew that a twentysomething girl looks at love and heartbreak much differently from a fortysomething," so King created a younger foil for Carrie in the character of Louise (Jennifer Hudson), who brings some midwestern wide-eyed innocence to the Big Apple.

"To have somebody idealistic in a very dark, woody forest of sadness was great," he said.

Creating a new character also allowed King to fill a gap long missing from the Manhattan of the TV show - "an amazing African-American girl."

As for the the constant flow of twentysomething women in and out of New York, King said, "They really run the city. All the women who are moving the city along are twentysomething women. Every girl that waits on [the fab four] in the movie is a twentysomething girl. But Louise is the one who shows up and really does the heavy lifting for Carrie."

Asked if he thought "Sex" 's original core audience would have a difficult time relating to this more domesticated fortysomething foursome, King laughed it off.

"All love-based relationships travel through an evolution of expectations and disappointments," he said. "Anybody who's alive and in love, or is trying to have a relationship, is going to relate to these characters.

"People have been writing about love since the great myths, so it is a pretty good topic - not specific to any one generation."

King also dismissed talk of a sequel - at least for now.

"When I'm having a sexual experience I like to stay totally focused on that sexual experience," he said. "Right now, I'm still in the climax of this sex moment. I literally think it would be inappropriate to the ladies I'm with to think about what's coming around the corner.

"This has been a big deal. I didn't hold anything in reserve because I care so much about the audience. . . . At first, when the script was so big, there was talk of doing it in two parts, but I thought, 'I can't do a cliffhanger.' I wanted a beginning, middle and end.

New Line, fortunately, cut the writer/director some slack and he was able to make the film he hoped for.

"I'm so thrilled that we have a movie that's over two hours," he said. "That's almost the impossible dream in movies now - that people are going to allow you to make a romantic comedy that's not an hour and forty minutes. That's thanks to New Line. They made 'Lord of the Rings,' so they're used to big stories.

And "Sex and the City" fans are used to big stories - and a lot of story.

"Some of those 30-minute episodes have 38 scenes in them," King said, adding that the movie took 69 shooting days, which he thought was fitting.

But sex jokes aside, " . . . the City" is about a lot more than sex. It's about friendship and forgiveness.

Cynthia Nixon told journalists that she thought King's fondness for forgiveness came from his religion, but he said the only religion that mattered in this case was "the religion of relationships that everyone has to worship every day if they want to be in them. It's really about love.

"I think the hardest thing about being a human being is feeling everything that love implies - great sorrow, great happiness, loss. I have four female leads, so that's a lot of ways to show forgiveness."

To King, and thus to the women of "Sex and the City," forgiveness is "the grown-up expression of love.

"Just like fairy tales are really bad for you if you believe they are reality," King said he believes that it's wrong "to think that love is about perfection rather than every day making something better, and loving and forgiving.

"But it's not really about forgiving anybody but yourself." *