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Fatal Attraction — which wheezes back to life as a series starring Joshua Jackson and Lizzy Caplan, premiering April 30 on Paramount+ — began as the 1979 short Diversion, about a one-night stand gone haywire, which writer-director James Dearden fleshed out into a feature screenplay.
With contributions from Nicholas Meyer (writer-director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), Paramount producers Stanley R. Jaffe and Sherry Lansing were convinced they had a viable erotic thriller on their hands. The script tells the story of Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), a married New York lawyer who has what he thinks is no-strings sex with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), a publishing executive, while his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and daughter are out of town. How wrong he is. Alex quickly becomes dangerously obsessed with Dan and the wife who stands in her way. The rest — from Alex’s “I’m not going to be ignored, Dan” to a boiled pet bunny — is cinematic history.
“It was a very good script,” director Adrian Lyne said back in 1987, a week before the film’s release. “I was dying to know what else would this woman do, and when would the wife find out?” There were no intimacy coordinators around when they shot the steamy scene that sets the plot in motion.
“I didn’t want to do their sex scene in bed because it’s so dreary,” Lyne said. “And I thought about the sink, because I remembered I had once had sex with a girl over a sink, way back. The plates clank around and you’ll have a laugh. You always need a laugh in a sex scene.”
After retooling the original ending — instead of Alex slitting her own throat, she’s shot dead by Beth as she emerges from a bathtub wielding a knife with Dan’s name on it — the film released to a monumental response, spending eight weeks at No. 1 and becoming the second-highest-grossing film of 1987 (behind Three Men and a Baby), earning $157 million domestically ($426 million today). It was also nominated for six Oscars and impressed THR‘s critic, who called it a “lean, riveting horror-of-personality movie.”
This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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