|Directed by||Adrian Lyne|
|Screenplay by||James Dearden|
by James Dearden
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$320.1 million|
Fatal Attraction is a 1987 American erotic psychological thriller film directed by Adrian Lyne from a screenplay written by James Dearden, based on his 1980 short film Diversion. Starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer, the film centers on a married man who has a weekend affair with a woman who refuses to allow it to end and becomes obsessed with him.
Fatal Attraction was released on September 18, 1987 by Paramount Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, but generated controversy at the time of its release. The film became a huge box office success, grossing $320.1 million against a $14 million budget, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1987 worldwide. At the 60th Academy Awards, it received 6 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (for Close), Best Supporting Actress (for Archer), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and Best Film Editing.
Daniel "Dan" Gallagher is a successful, happily-married Manhattan lawyer whose work leads him to meet Alexandra "Alex" Forrest, an editor for a publishing company. While his wife, Beth, and daughter, Ellen, are out of town for the weekend, Dan has an affair with Alex. Although it was initially understood by both as just a fling, Alex begins to cling to him.
After leaving unexpectedly in the middle of the night, Dan reluctantly spends the following day with Alex after she persistently asks him over. When Dan attempts to suddenly leave again, she cuts her wrists in a manipulative ploy to force him to stay. He helps her bandage the cuts, stays with her overnight to make sure she is all right, and leaves in the morning. Although Dan believes the affair to be forgotten, Alex shows up at his office one day to apologize for her behavior and invites him to a performance of Madame Butterfly, but he politely turns her down. She then continues to call him at his office until he tells his secretary that he will no longer take her calls.
Alex then phones his home at all hours, claiming that she is pregnant and plans to keep the baby. Although he wants nothing to do with her, she argues that he must take responsibility. After he changes his home phone number, she shows up at his apartment (which is for sale) and meets Beth, feigning interest as a buyer. Later that night, Dan goes to Alex's apartment to confront her, which results in a scuffle. In response, she replies that she will not be ignored.
Dan moves his family to Bedford, but this does not deter Alex. She has a tape recording delivered to him filled with verbal abuse. She stalks him in a parking garage, pours acid onto his car, ruining the engine, and follows him home one night to spy on him, Beth, and Ellen from the bushes in their yard: the sight of the family makes her sick to her stomach. Her obsession escalates further when Dan approaches the police to apply for a restraining order against Alex (claiming that it is "for a client"). The lieutenant claims that he cannot violate her rights without probable cause, and that the "client" has to own up to his adultery.
At one point, while the Gallaghers are not home, Alex kills Ellen's pet rabbit, and puts it on their stove to boil; Beth finds the pot and screams in terror. After this, Dan tells Beth of the affair and Alex's supposed pregnancy. Enraged, she demands that Dan leave. Before he goes, Dan calls Alex to tell her that Beth knows about the affair. Beth gets on the phone and warns Alex that she will kill her if she persists. Without Dan and Beth's knowledge, Alex picks up Ellen from school and takes her to an amusement park. Beth panics when she cannot find Ellen. She drives around frantically searching and rear-ends a car stopped at an intersection which causes her to be injured and hospitalized. Alex drops Ellen off at home unharmed, asking her for a kiss on the cheek.
Dan barges into Alex's apartment and attacks her, choking her and coming close to strangling her. He stops himself, but as he does, she lunges at him with a kitchen knife. He overpowers her but decides to put the knife down and leave, while Alex is leaning against the kitchen counter, smiling. The police begin to search for her after Dan tells them about the kidnapping. Following Beth's release from the hospital, she forgives Dan, and they return home.
Beth prepares a bath for herself when Alex suddenly appears with the kitchen knife and explains her belief that Beth is standing in the way of having Dan to herself, before proceeding to attack her. Dan hears the screaming, rushes in, wrestles Alex into the bathtub, and seemingly drowns her. She suddenly emerges from the water, swinging the knife, but Beth arrives with Dan's revolver and shoots Alex in the chest, finally killing her. The final scene shows police cars outside the Gallaghers' house. As Dan finishes delivering his statement to the police, he walks inside, where Beth is waiting for him. They embrace and proceed to the living room as the camera focuses on a picture of the family.
- Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher - husband of Beth, father of Ellen, and a New York attorney who has an affair with Alex Forrest and later regrets it.
- Glenn Close as Alex Forrest - who becomes obsessed with Dan after a very brief affair. Close was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as the character.
- Anne Archer as Beth Rogerson Gallagher
- Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ellen Gallagher
- Stuart Pankin as Jimmy
- Ellen Foley as Hildy
- Fred Gwynne as Arthur, Dan's boss
- Meg Mundy as Joan Rogerson, Beth's mother
- Tom Brennan as Howard Rogerson, Beth's father
- Lois Smith as Martha, Dan's secretary
- Mike Nussbaum as Bob Drimmer
- J. J. Johnston as O'Rourke
- Michael Arkin as Lieutenant
- Jane Krakowski as Christine, the babysitter
The film was adapted by James Dearden (with assistance from Nicholas Meyer) from Diversion, an earlier 1980 short film by Dearden for British television. In Meyer's book "The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood", he explains that in late 1986 producer Stanley R. Jaffe asked him to look at the script developed by Dearden, and he wrote a four-page memo making suggestions for the script including a new ending for the movie. A few weeks later he met with director Adrian Lyne and gave him some additional suggestions. Ultimately Meyer was asked to redraft the script on the basis of his suggestions, which ended up being the shooting script.
Producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe both had serious doubts about casting Glenn Close because they did not think she could be sexual enough for the role of Alex. Gilda Radner was considered for the role of Alex Forrest. Debra Winger was offered the role but turned it down. Close was persistent, so that after meeting with Jaffe several times in New York, she was asked to fly out to Los Angeles to read with Michael Douglas in front of Adrian Lyne and Lansing. Before the audition, she let her naturally frizzy hair "go wild" because she was impatient at putting it up, and she wore a slimming black dress she thought made her look "fabulous" to audition. This impressed Lansing, because Close "came in looking completely different...right away she was into the part." Close and Douglas performed a scene from early in the script, where Alex flirts with Dan in a café, and Close came away "convinced my career was over, that I was finished, I had completely blown my chances." Lansing and Lyne, however, were both convinced that she was right for the role; Lyne stated that "an extraordinary erotic transformation took place. She was this tragic, bewildering mix of sexuality and rage—I watched Alex come to life."
To prepare for her role, Glenn Close consulted several psychologists, hoping to understand Alex's psyche and motivations. She was uncomfortable with the bunny boiling scene, which she thought was too extreme, but she was assured on consulting the psychologists that such an action was entirely possible and that Alex's behavior corresponded to someone who had experienced incestual sexual abuse as a child.
Alex Forrest was originally scripted slashing her throat at the film's end with the knife Dan had left on the counter, so as to make it appear that Dan had murdered her. After seeing her husband being taken away by police, Beth finds a revealing cassette tape that Alex sent Dan in which she threatens to kill herself. Upon realizing Alex's intentions, Beth takes the tape to the police, which acquits Dan of the murder. The last scene shows, in flashback, Alex taking her own life by slashing her throat while listening to Madame Butterfly.
After doing test screenings, Joseph Farrell (who handled the test screenings) suggested that Paramount shoot a new ending. Alex is killed by a gunshot during the three-week reshoot of the action scene. Alex's killing by Beth juxtaposes the relationship between the two characters; with Alex being victimized and Beth violently protecting her family.
In the 2002 Special Edition DVD, Close comments that she had doubts about re-shooting the film's ending because she believed the character would "self-destruct and commit suicide". Close eventually gave in on her concerns, and filmed the new sequence after having fought against the change for two weeks. Close has described how protective she was of her character, whom she "never thought of as a villain", stating that: "I wasn't playing a generality, I wasn't playing a cliché. I was playing a very specific, deeply disturbed, fragile human being, whom I had grown to love." However, though the ending made Alex into a "psychopath" against Close's wishes, she has also acknowledged that the film would not have experienced the enormous success it did without the new ending, because it gave the audience "a sense of catharsis, a hope, that somehow the family unit would survive the nightmare."
The film's first Japanese release used the original ending. The original ending also appeared on a special edition VHS and LaserDisc release by Paramount in 1992, and was included on the film's DVD release a decade later. A Special Collector's Edition of the film was released on DVD in 2002. Paramount released Fatal Attraction on Blu-ray Disc on June 9, 2009. The Blu-ray release contained several bonus features from the 2002 DVD, including commentary by director Adrian Lyne, cast and crew interviews, a look at the film's cultural phenomenon, a behind-the-scenes look, rehearsal footage, the alternative ending, and the original theatrical trailer.
Fatal Attraction spent 8 weeks at #1 in the U.S. where it was the second-highest-grossing film of 1987, behind Three Men and a Baby. It grossed $320.1 million worldwide, making it the year’s biggest film. This success led to similar psychological thrillers being made in the late 1980s and 1990s. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 76% based on reviews from 54 critics, with an average rating of 6.80/10. The site's consensus reads, "A potboiler in the finest sense, Fatal Attraction is a sultry, juicy thriller that's hard to look away from once it gets going." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 67/100 based on reviews from 16 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss said "[The film brings] horror home to a place where the grownup moviegoer actually lives." The New York Times’ Janet Maslin said the film would become a long-standing favorite with audiences, writing "Years hence, it will be possible to pinpoint the exact moment that produced Fatal Attraction, Adrian Lyne's new romantic thriller, and the precise circumstances that made it a hit." Fatal Attraction engendered discussion of the consequences of infidelity. Some feminists did not appreciate the depiction of a strong career woman who is a psychopath.
Feminist Susan Faludi discussed the film in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, arguing that major changes had been made to the original plot in order to make Alex wholly negative, while Dan's carelessness and the lack of compassion and responsibility raised no discussion, except for a small number of men's groups who said that Dan was eventually forced to own up to his irresponsibility in that "everyone pays the piper". Close was quoted in 2008 as saying, "Men still come up to me and say, 'You scared the shit out of me.' Sometimes they say, 'You saved my marriage.'" Critic Barry Norman expressed sympathy for feminists who were frustrated by the film, criticized its "over-the-top" ending and called it inferior to Clint Eastwood's Play Misty for Me, which has a similar plot. Nonetheless, he declared it "strong and very well made, excellently played by the three main characters and neatly written". Fatal Attraction has been described as a neo-noir film by some authors.
The character of Alex Forrest has been discussed by psychiatrists and film experts, and has been used as a film illustration for the condition borderline personality disorder, The character displays the behaviours of impulsivity, emotional lability, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, frequent severe anger, self-harming, and changing from idealization to devaluation; these traits are consistent with the diagnosis but not to this degree, generally, aggression tends to be towards the self rather than others, this is a more common feature in borderline personality disorder.
As referenced in Orit Kamirs' Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives and the Law, "Glenn Close's character Alex is quite deliberately made to be an erotomaniac. Gelder reports that Glenn Close "consulted three separate shrinks for an inner profile of her character, who is meant to be suffering from a form of an obsessive condition known as de Clérambault's syndrome" (Gelder 1990, 93–94). The term "bunny boiler" is used to describe an obsessive, spurned woman, deriving from the scene where it is discovered that Alex has boiled the pet rabbit.
Accolades and honors
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills—#28
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Alex Forrest—Villain—#7
On July 2, 2015, Fox announced that a TV series based on the film was being developed by Mad Men writers Maria and Andre Jacquemetton. On January 13, 2017, it was announced that the project was canceled.
On February 24, 2021, it was announced that Paramount+ planned to reboot the film as a series for their platform. It would be written by Alexandra Cunningham and Kevin J. Hynes and produced by Cunningham, Hynes, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank of Amblin Entertainment, Stanley Jaffe, and Sherry Lansing.
- Carolyn Warmus
- List of films featuring home invasions
- Mental illness in film
- Fatal Instinct, a 1993 film parody
- Serpent's Lair, a 1995 film exploring similar themes
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