Bad Influence (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Curtis Hanson|
|Produced by||Steve Tisch|
|Written by||David Koepp|
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Edited by||Bonnie Koehler|
|Distributed by||Triumph Releasing Corporation|
|March 9, 1990|
Bad Influence is a 1990 American psychological thriller film directed by Curtis Hanson starring Rob Lowe and James Spader. In this noirish film, Spader plays a yuppie who meets a mysterious stranger (Lowe) who encourages him to explore his dark side. Bad Influence was the first original screenplay for which David Koepp received a sole screenplay credit. The film's villain is loosely based on a real person, a nomadic surfer who befriended executive producer Morrie Eisenman.
Michael, a shy, socially awkward doormat, meets the extroverted Alex, who teaches him to be assertive and take risks. Things go too far however, when they go on a drug-fueled crime spree and assault a coworker Michael dislikes. When Michael wants out, Alex takes it upon himself to convince Michael to reconsider his decision - one way or another.
- Rob Lowe as Alex
- James Spader as Michael Boll
- Lisa Zane as Claire
- Christian Clemenson as Pismo Boll
- Marcia Cross as Ruth Fielding
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Leslie
- Grand L. Bush as Bartender
- David Duchovny as Club Goer with Glasses
- Perri Lister as Claire's Friend
- Michael Kristick as Bouncer
- Bianca Rossini as Bumped Woman
- John de Lancie as Howard
- Warren Stanhope as Banker
- Lilyan Chauvin as Art Gallery Patron
- Rosalyn Landor as Britt
- Tony Maggio as Patterson
- Palmer Lee Todd as Naked Woman
- Sunny Smith as Waitress
- Susan Lee Hoffman as Karen, Woman in Bar
- Jeff Kaake as Willie, Man in Bar
The film is based on an original script by David Koepp who had previously made just one movie, Apartment Zero. The script launched Koepp's career.
Director Curtis Hanson did not write the film but says it was similar to his earlier movies Silent Partner and Bedroom Window. He said all are about a "character who takes a step out of line. In these pictures the guy is very guilty . . . and his guilt gets him in deeper and deeper. Because he's guilty he pays a terrible price, but we feel better because he paid that price and he ends up with a strict moral code he didn't have at the start of the picture." 
When Rob Lowe originally read the script, he says "my strongest reaction on a visceral level was to Alex. But I was nervous about playing him because I felt the character didn't go through any sort of arc or metamorphosis. He ended up unredeemed, unlike the villain I'd played in Masquerade." So Lowe decided to play Michael, the good guy. Lowe had second thoughts and was persuaded by writer David Koepp to play Alex. 
During rehearsals a story broke about Lowe filming himself having sex with two women, one of whom was sixteen. "I don't believe in the theory that any publicity is good," said Hanson. "For Rob's sake and the picture's sake, I wish it had never happened. The story broke shortly before rehearsals and my reaction was completely selfish. I kept wondering, 'How does this affect the movie? How does it affect his performance?' It was like a carnival atmosphere around him." It was decided to keep Lowe in the part.
Filming started 20 June 1989. James Spader called it "an extremely strange, peculiar thriller, and where you end up is extremely surprising. You really think you know where you're going all the way along, and boy, you're surprised just how lost you are."
Movie historian Leonard Maltin gave the film 2.5 out of a possible 4 stars, saying, "This quasi-remake of Strangers on a Train knows what buttons to push and when; Lowe is convincingly creepy, but he won't make you forget Robert Walker."
Rob Lowe said in a 2017 interview it was the project in his career he did not feel got the attention it deserved. "It was really ahead of its time," he said. "I’m really proud of it... It’s sexy. It’s weird. It’s dark. The characters are great... It’s also a great snapshot of underground L.A. at the beginning of the ’90s. And yet it doesn’t feel dated."
Curtis Hanson said he was "very fond" of the film but "it was an unhappy experience when that picture got released, because it coincided with that ridiculous Rob Lowe videotape scandal. Rob, who I thought was really good in the movie, had his performance overshadowed by this sort of tabloid approach to him and the movie... There were people who actually wrote in reviews that this picture had been put out to capitalize on the scandal. Which, of course, would have been impossible."
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- Director uses temptation theme Dudek, Duane. Milwaukee Journal; Milwaukee, Wis. [Milwaukee, Wis]09 Mar 1990: NO PG CIT.
- Rob Lowe is still trying to come... ] Jamie Portman Southam News. CanWest News; Don Mills, Ont. [Don Mills, Ont]26 Feb 1990: 1.
- SCANDAL GOOD FOR ROB LOWE: [1* Edition] Persico, Joyce J. The Province 6 Mar 1990: 39.
- Cinefile: [Home Edition] Klady, Leonard. Los Angeles Times 2 Apr 1989: 29.
- At the Movies: [Review] Lawrence Van Gelder. New York Times 18 Aug 1989: C.10.
- "Bad Influence (1990)". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Harris, Will (8 February 2017). "Of all his films, Rob Lowe wants you to go back and watch Bad Influence". The AV Club. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
- Tobias, Scott (February 21, 2001). "Curtis Hanson". AV Club.