“Fatal Attraction” showed everyone what can happen when you step out of line.
In the iconic 1987 movie, Dan Gallagher and Alex Forrest, played by Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, engage in what he thought was a casual fling, only to realize he’d made the biggest mistake of his life.
One thing led to another, and as the title of the movie suggests, the attraction between the two characters ended up being fatal.
Following the release of the new Paramount+ series “Fatal Attraction” on Sunday, here are some of the juiciest behind-the-scenes secrets from the making of the ’80s movie.
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While the movie isn’t based on a true story, there are elements of the story that were pulled from situations screenwriter James Dearden experienced in his life or saw his friends experience.
“I’m not going to say [the story] was autobiographical,” Dearden told Stephen Galloway, author of “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker.”
“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.”
A few years prior to making “Fatal Attraction,” Dearden wrote a short film called “Diversion,” with a plot very similar to what would go on to become the famous movie. One of the producers, Stanley R. Jaffe, saw “Diversion,” and immediately approached Dearden about making it into a feature length film.
After getting Paramount Pictures’ chairperson and CEO Sherry Lansing on board, all that was left was finding a director willing to take on the film. A few directors signed on only to back out later, putting the future of the movie in question, until director Adrian Lyne signed on to the project.
In February 2021, Paramount announced a TV show reboot of the movie, starring Lizzy Caplan as Alex Forrest, Joshua Jackson as Dan Gallagher and Amanda Peet as Beth Gallagher.
The new miniseries takes place in present day and follows Jackson’s version of Gallagher once he’s released from prison after serving 15 years for the murder of Alex Forrest. He tries to restore his relationship with his family while also proving his innocence.
Douglas and Close are iconic in their roles as lovers turned enemies, but they were not the first choices for the film.
At the time, Douglas was not the A-list celebrity he is today, and was mostly known for his roles in “Romancing the Stone” and “The Streets of San Francisco.” His Academy Award-winning performance in the film “Wall Street” had not yet been seen by audiences, so executives were nervous he wouldn’t be able to open a movie on his own.
He somehow managed to charm producers Jaffe and Lansing into giving him the role, remaining loyal to the project during periods of uncertainty when directors kept changing.
The next step was casting the female lead. Many famous actresses either came in to read for the role, or flat out turned it down – including Kirstie Alley, Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Debra Winger, Jessica Lange, Judy Davis and Barbara Hershey.
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When Close expressed interest in auditioning for the role, the filmmakers were on the fence about whether she was the right choice. While she was already a three time Academy Award nominee, Douglas explained to the New York Times in 2017, she was “a wonderful actress, but she always projected a Puritan vision,” and they “were doing a big favor for Glenn’s agent by letting her read with [him].”
While none of them expected her to nail it, Close proved herself in the audition.
“I just wanted a character that would demand more of me,” she told the New York Times in 2017. “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.”
In the end, Close went on to earn her fourth Academy Award nomination for her part in the movie, as well as a Golden Globe Award nomination.
It’s no secret Close’s character in the film is not in her right frame of mind, however there wasn’t much detail in the script about what led the character to react to the affair in the way that she did, leading Close to form her own backstory.
“The research I did with psychiatrists, even though they didn’t bring up a particular mental illness, we decided that she had been [a victim of incest] at a very, very early age by her father, long enough to really damage her,” Close told People TV in 2018. “That was the woman I was playing.”
One of the most famous scenes is when she decided to boil the Gallagher family’s pet rabbit after following Douglas’ character home one day. It was a difficult scene, especially since the rabbit used on set was a real bunny purchased from the butcher.
“The stench was unbearable,” Lyne told the New York Times in 2017. “It permeated the whole house.”
In another key scene, Douglas’ character’s daughter was meant to start crying while Douglas and Anne Archer were fighting in a scene. The 6-year-old actress playing his daughter, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, couldn’t get the waterworks out, and ended up getting some help from Douglas.
“I was instructed not to speak,” Latzen told the New York Times in 2017. “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.”
The movie was supposed to end in a completely different manner than what audiences saw in theaters.
In the original ending of the movie, the character of Alex commits suicide by slitting her throat, in the hopes that it would look like Dan killed her. Lyne decided to change the ending because he felt it “fell flat and, watching it with an audience, it was clear it didn’t work.”
The decision to have Beth kill Alex came out of audience’s positive reaction every time Beth threatened to kill Alex throughout the movie, making it clear that is what they wanted. However, it wasn’t what Close wanted.
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“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 told People TV. “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.”
Close disliked the new ending so much, she almost refused to go back and re-shoot it, as did Archer and the director.
“I fought it for two weeks,” she told the New York Times. “It was going to make a character I loved into a murdering psychopath. I was in a meeting with Michael, Stanley and Adrian. I was furious! I said to Michael, ‘How would you feel if it were your character?’ He said, ‘Babe, I’m a whore.'”
Eventually, they all agreed to film the new ending, once given the promise that if they liked the original ending better, they would be able to go with that version, and the rest is history.
While filming the new ending, Close hit her head on the bottom of the bathtub.
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She landed in the hospital with a concussion, and received some surprising information. Doctors told her she was pregnant, a funny twist on one of the loose ends in the film in which Close’s character tells Douglas’ character she is pregnant with his baby. The pregnancy in the movie is never confirmed, and fans are left to determine whether she was lying.
Close’s daughter, Annie Starke, has gone on to become an actress herself, playing a younger version of her mom in “The Wife,” as well as appearing in “We Don’t Belong Here,” “Father Figures” and “Ratched,” alongside Sarah Paulson.
Close wanted to make sure she never forgot her experience making the iconic movie, and took home a vital prop – the knife she used in the final attack.
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“It’s hanging up behind me as I speak, on the wall of my kitchen,” she told the New York Times in 2017. “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.”