Commemorating the 30th anniversary of Fatal Attraction, the 1987 thriller that kicked off the “Bitches Be Crazy” film trend that peaked in the early ’90s, the New York Times has published an oral history of the iconic movie that was almost never made. Fatal Attraction, however, would not be ignored.
Among the more interesting tidbits of the oral history is that Brian de Palma was at one time attached to direct, but ultimately decided against it because he didn’t want Michael Douglas to play Dan, the male lead. Ultimately, the film was directed by Flashdance’s Adrian Lyne, who from his vantage point, never understood why Fatal Attraction got so much criticism from feminists who felt it demonized professional single women.
“The idea that I was trying to condemn career women and say they’re all psychotic is just nuts,” Lyne tells the Times. “I’m a feminist.”
OH, SO WE’RE NUTS NOW, ARE WE???????????????????????????????????????
Not all that surprising considering the shallow nature of the entertainment business, but during casting, no one believed that Glenn Close would make a convincing femme fatale.
GLENN CLOSE I just wanted a character that would demand more of me. I’d never played a character who was supposed to be sexy. I knew I could do it. They were so sure I was wrong. They didn’t even want me to read because they were embarrassed.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS We were doing a big favor for Glenn’s agent by letting her read with me. I don’t think any of us had high hopes—she’s a wonderful actress, but she always projected a Puritan vision. The moment I saw her, I was like, “Whoa!”
CLOSE I was terrified! I didn’t know what to do about my hair. Put it up? Ponytail? Finally I said, “I’ll let it go wild!” The acting gods were with me.
LANSING In less than five minutes, Adrian calls us in and says, “I think you should see this.” There was Glenn, her hair unrecognizable. She did the “Are you discreet?” scene, and we were blown away. Now I can’t imagine the film with anybody else.
Michael Douglas, for what it’s worth, sounds like a real pill:
One of the biggest challenges involved getting the 6-year-old Ellen Latzen to cry on cue when her character sees her parents fighting.
ELLEN LATZEN I was instructed not to speak. I was standing there with Uni, my own stuffed animal. Michael came up to me and said: “Look at that stupid unicorn. I’m going to throw it in the garbage.” As you watch the scene, you can see I’m trying really hard to fight back tears. Finally, he was just yelling at me. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Adrian said, “Cut!” Immediately, Michael ran to me and held me, and said, “I’m so sorry.” It was pretty intense.
DOUGLAS I felt pretty guilty. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
SO LONG AS YOU GET THE SHOT, BABY!
The original ending of Fatal Attraction had, as if it were possible, a darker ending with Alex (Close) slitting her own throat with a kitchen knife and framing Dan for murder. Audiences, however, hated it because they
hate women “viscerally wanted to kill Alex, not allow her to kill herself.” And so the ending was re-shot entirely, much to the disappointment of Close, who didn’t want to see the character she loved turned into “a murdering psychopath.”
In the end, though, she did get a consolation prize:
Ms. Close has a memento from the film: the knife she used to menace Mr. Douglas in the final scene.
CLOSE It’s hanging up behind me as I speak, on the wall of my kitchen. It’s beautiful, made of wood and paper. It’s a work of art! And it’s nice for our guests to see it. It lets them know they can’t stay forever.
Over stay your welcome and Glenn Close will paper cut you to death.