Fatal Attraction, which starred notable actors like Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, and Anne Archer, is a 1987 psychological thriller film from director Adrian Lyne that explores the consequences of a brief extramarital affair between a married man, Dan Gallagher (Douglas) and a single career woman, Alex Forrest (Close).
The movie was both a critical and commercial success, receiving six Academy Award nominations and grossing over $320 million worldwide. The film’s portrayal of a female character as a dangerous and manipulative stalker sparked controversy and debate about gender roles and mental illness. Also, during the production of the movie, several events occurred behind the scenes that helped to shape the final outcome of the film.
James Dearden claims that the story in ‘Fatal Attraction’ was very relatable
Although the film is not a true story, screenwriter James Dearden did incorporate some real-life experiences of his own and those of his acquaintances into the script. The screenwriter revealed that the movie’s plot included elements that he observed or encountered in his personal life, giving the story a sense of authenticity and relatability to audiences.
“I’m not going to say [the story] was autobiographical,” Dearden said. “But everyone has been in situations where they’ve been harassed. I had an experience where somebody kept calling me, and I got very uncomfortable. And I had a girlfriend who cut her wrists, very theatrically, and not to kill herself. Then a good friend of mine was pursued by this beautiful but crazy woman, and it was destroying his marriage.”
Michael Douglas and Glenn Close were not the first choices for ‘Fatal Attraction’
Although the performances of Douglas and Close as the lovers who become enemies in the movie were iconic, they were not originally selected for these roles. During the production, the 78-year-old Douglas was not yet considered the popular actor that he is now, and this made him a subject of debate among movie executives when he was considered for the lead role. Despite the uncertainty, Douglas was able to impress producers Herb Jaffe and Sherry Lansing and convinced them to give him the role. He stayed committed to the project even during times of uncertainty when the directors were frequently changing.
However, in the case of Close, several other actresses, such as Kirstie Alley, Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Debra Winger, Jessica Lange, Judy Davis, and Barbara Hershey, wanted the role. When Close showed interest in auditioning for the part, the filmmakers were hesitant about whether she would be a suitable fit for the role. Even though the expectations were not high for her audition, the three-time Emmy award winner surprised everyone by delivering an impressive performance.
The actress told The New York Times in 2017 that she decided to audition for the role because she was looking for something challenging. “I just wanted a character that would demand more of me,” she confessed. “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.”
‘Fatal Attraction’ was supposed to end differently
The film’s initial ending was significantly different from what audiences witnessed in theaters. In the original version, Alex’s character commits suicide by cutting her throat to frame Dan for her murder. Director Lyne eventually decided to alter the ending because he believed it “fell flat,” and upon observing it with an audience, it was evident that it didn’t have the desired impact.
The choice to have Beth (Archer) be the one to kill Alex came from the positive feedback from the audience every time she made threats to kill Alex in the film. This made it apparent that this was the direction that viewers wanted the story to take. It was not the ending that Close desired for her character, and she was vocal about it to the director.
The actress revealed to People TV that the final ending was motivated by the audience. “I think because Anne Archer was beautiful and so wonderful and Michael was this star that everybody loved, it was so upsetting to everybody,” Close revealed to the media outlet, “that even though I killed myself, it wasn’t punishment enough. The audience wanted to believe that that family might be able to survive. So they got their catharsis by shedding my blood.”