Matthew Broderick, the teen movie idol turned Broadway star now known as ‘Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband’

After cinema success in the 80s and 90s, the actor shifted to the stage and now has a lead TV role in ‘Painkiller’ and a guest appearance in ‘Only Murders in the Building’

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, in 1993
Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, in 1993.Kypros (Getty Images)
Eva Güimil

In Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker’s main love interest was a man known as Mr. Big. In real life, her one and only love is actor Matthew Broderick, her husband of 26 years. It may surprise some that when they fell in love, Parker was an unfamiliar face, while he was already one of the most well-known actors of his generation. Matthew Broderick has played a wide range of roles, from summer blockbusters and indie films to teen movies, action, comedy and voice-over work (adult Simba in The Lion King). He is also a highly acclaimed Broadway star who continues to work in film, recently co-starring in No Hard Feelings with Jennifer Lawrence. In August, he will guest star in Hulu’s third season of Only Murders in the Building. In Netflix’s Painkiller, a fresh take on the opioid crisis, Broderick plays Richard Sackler, the billionaire businessman and physician who headed the pharmaceutical company responsible for the largest public health emergency in recent U.S. history.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Broderick revealed that he had personal motives for taking the Painkiller role. “I had a mom who had cancer and was on those pills. She was in absolute agony, and they helped her a great deal. So I’ve seen both ends of it. I know how bad they are. And I know what a miracle [they can be].”

Even though his parents were actors, Broderick originally dreamed of playing professional football. A knee injury dashed his hopes and he found himself pursuing a different path. Everything changed when The New York Times praised his natural and spontaneous performance in one of his first acting roles.

Matthew Broderick and Neil Simon at the New York premiere of 'Biloxi Blues' in March 1988.
Matthew Broderick and Neil Simon at the New York premiere of 'Biloxi Blues' in March 1988.Ron Galella, Ltd. (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

That brief mention of Broderick’s portrayal of a gay teenager in Torch Song Trilogy, the 1981 stage production of Harvey Fierstein’s play, jumpstarted his acting career. “I had some agents telling me to be careful. I just thought it was a hilarious part and never worried about it,” he said. “And to be totally honest, I hadn’t gotten any other jobs, so it was a really great job to get. When someone would mention to me, ‘But it’s a gay character, blah blah blah,’ I was like, ‘Fuck you.’ That play was a huge deal when it opened. It was one of the most exciting times of my career.”

A few years later he portrayed his friend, playwright Neil Simon, in Brighton Beach Memoirs and became the youngest Tony Award winner at the age of 21. He says theater brought him great joy, but television also came calling. He was offered the role of Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties (1982-1989), but Broderick wasn’t interested in long-term commitments and declined the offer. Michael J. Fox embraced the role, which propelled his own career to new heights. Despite initial reluctance, Broderick accepted the offer to immerse himself in the world of Galaga (a fixed-shooter arcade video game) for two months to prepare for the lead role in the War Games (1983). The movie revolves around a tech-savvy teenager who unintentionally gains access to the U.S. defense system.

Matthew Broderick during the filming of 'War Games' (1983).
Matthew Broderick during the filming of 'War Games' (1983).Robin Platzer (Getty Images)
A scene from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', the 1986 movie that made Matthew Broderick a star.
A scene from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', the 1986 movie that made Matthew Broderick a star.CBS Photo Archive (CBS via Getty Images)

Broderick became so popular that he was the highest-paid cast member in Ladyhawke (1985), earning $700,000, more than lead actors Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer. Despite these impressive numbers, he hadn’t quite reached superstar status... until that fateful role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Pursued by the likes of Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Rob Lowe, the role propelled Broderick to stardom. It became a cult classic in teenage cinema, solidifying his image as the ultimate high school charmer, even though he was 25 by then.

The accident that changed everything

While filming Ferris Bueller, he fell for Jennifer Grey, who portrayed his impulsive younger sister in the movie. Just weeks before the highly anticipated premiere of Dirty Dancing, Grey’s defining role, the two were involved in a tragic accident on an Irish highway. Broderick, driving a rented BMW 316, swerved into the opposite lane and crashed head-on into Margaret Doherty and her daughter, Anna Gallagher, who were both killed instantly. Broderick spent four weeks in a Belfast hospital with a broken leg, two broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a concussion. Grey only suffered minor injuries. Broderick told authorities that he had no recollection of the accident and didn’t know why he swerved into the opposite lane. “I don’t even remember getting out of bed in the morning. The first thing I remember is waking up in the hospital with a very strange feeling in my leg,” he said. He was charged with reckless driving and fined a mere $175, which the family of the victims called “a travesty of justice.”

Matthew Broderick and former partner Jennifer Grey at a Broadway performance of 'Burn This' in November 1987.
Matthew Broderick and former partner Jennifer Grey at a Broadway performance of 'Burn This' in November 1987.Ron Galella, Ltd. (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

Broderick’s career was unaffected by the devastating accident. After the success of Ferris Buller’s Day Off, he didn’t shy away from taking acting risks. In 1988, he played the role of Alan, the partner of the protagonist in the film adaptation of Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. Despite his boyish looks, he began to embrace adult roles. He played the commander of an all-Black volunteer regiment during the Civil War in Glory (1989), and achieved his biggest box office success as a scientist in Godzilla (1998). Although Godzilla fell short of the huge expectations, it was still a notable milestone in Broderick’s career. Another minor disappointment came with Inspector Gadget (1999), a role he won over Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. Critics were also lukewarm about The Cable Guy (1996), a black comedy starring Jim Carrey as a cable TV installer who terrorizes Broderick’s home. He ended the 1990s on a high note with critical acclaim for Election (1999), Alexander Payne’s adaptation of a novel by Tom Perrotta. A political satire set in a high school, the movie showcased the best of Broderick and Reese Witherspoon’s talents.

Matthew and Sarah Jessica becomes Sarah Jessica and Matthew

The 1990s brought Broderick something far more significant than fame and fortune — his life partner. While directing a play for a theater company associated with two of Sarah Jessica Parker’s siblings, he crossed paths with his future wife. She would frequently attend rehearsals, and the precise moment he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her is etched in his memory. “Oh, the first time I met her,” Broderick said. “I saw her walking down the street and thought, ‘That’s it.’” Broderick’s romances with Jennifer Grey and Helen Hunt were over, as were Parker’s brief fling with John F. Kennedy, Jr. and tumultuous seven-year relationship with Robert Downey, Jr.

In 1997, the actor’s sister officiated their civil ceremony held at a Lower East Side synagogue. To avoid arousing suspicion among the 100 guests, Sarah Jessica Parker donned a black dress for what was in fact a wedding celebration. Fast-forward to 2002, their first child, James Wilkie, was born. Then, in 2009, Loretta and Tabitha joined the family through surrogacy.

Following the wedding, Matthew Broderick saw a role reversal within the couple: as his career waned, Parker’s popularity soared to new heights. She had played supporting roles in hits such as Ed Wood (1994), The First Wives Club (1996) and Mars Attacks! (1996), but her film career hadn’t taken off like Broderick’s, so she hesitated before agreeing to a television series. After being persuaded by her agent and Broderick, she took on the role of Carrie Bradshaw in the iconic series, Sex and the City. The rest, as they say, is television history.

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in Los Angeles; 1993.
Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in Los Angeles; 1993.Ron Davis

Popularity was never a concern for him, as Broderick’s true passion lay in the theater, and Broadway had always welcomed him with open curtains. In 2001, The Producers, a musical based on the book by Mel Brooks, shattered records and clinched 12 Tony Awards, making Broderick the highest-paid stage actor of the year. He and his stage partner Nathan Lane earned a staggering $100,000 per week, plus a percentage of the box office receipts. In 2022, Broderick and Parker performed together in Neil Simon’s play, Plaza Suite, 25 years after their first collaboration. In a city recovering from the pandemic, the play drew large audiences excited to see two beloved actors in action. Their affinity for New York City has played a crucial role in their enduring relationship. “We love living in a bustling city where we can simply step outside, take a leisurely walk down the street, and feel connected to our community,” said Parker. They have also taken great care to keep their personal life out of the spotlight, as much as possible.

Being a celebrity couple, their relationship has naturally faced intense scrutiny by the media. “As usual, days ahead of our anniversary... the National Enquirer is making its annual best effort to fabricate and undermine, this time a blissful 4 days with my husband in London,” said Parker’s social media posts in 2019.

Tired of the rumors, she took to Instagram and accused the tabloid of spreading misinformation about her marriage. “Hey, National Enquirer... why not celebrate a marriage of 22 years and a relationship of 27 years? Because, despite your endless harassment and wasted ink, we are nearing three decades of love, commitment, respect, family and home. There’s your ‘scoop’ from a ‘reliable source.’” Parker’s clapback was enthusiastically supported by the couple’s fans.

When they celebrated 26 years of marriage in May, Parker simply shared a photo of a champagne cork and said, “Happy 26th anniversary, my husband. That sure was a nice celebration and a real nice bottle of champagne. And a gorgeous walk home. Oh, the miles we have strolled together. I love you.” As Carrie Bradshaw used to say at the end of every Sex and the City episode, “And just like that...”

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS