Over the years, the film “Fatal Attraction” would occasionally come up in conversation, while I was talking with someone about movies. One of those instances happened just recently. I was easily able to recall the three main stars of the film, as well as the plot, but then it dawned on me – I haven’t actually seen the movie, since I was a teenager, when I watched it on HBO. I realized that meant that it had been over two decades since I last saw the film. I decided, over the past few weeks, to search my local library, Netflix, Amazon, and the various cable television stations, for films that, like “Fatal Attraction,” I haven’t seen in many years. I can say, at the outset, that thanks to the excellent acting, I wasn’t disappointed to revisit a film, which received six Academy Award nominations at the 1988 Oscars.
The plot is rather straightforward, and as previously mentioned, if not driven by the acting talents of two time Oscar winner Michael Douglas (Wall Street), and three time Golden Globe winner Glenn Close (Damages), could’ve wound up being rather mediocre. In the film, Douglas portrays Dan Gallagher. He is a lawyer, who is a devoted father to his six year old daughter Ellen (Ellen Latzen), and a seemingly happily married man to his wife Beth, played by two time Golden Globe winner Anne Archer (Short Cuts). At the start of the film, Dan and Beth are preparing to attend a party in honor of the launch of a new book by the publishing house Dan’s law firm represents. During a brief exchange at the party, Dan meets publishing executive, the engaging, frizzy-haired blonde, Alex Forrest, who is portrayed by Glenn Close. Even though his wife, is nowhere near him, during their conversation, Dan, to his credit, perhaps the only credit due him in the film, admits that he’s married. (As an aside: while filming “Fatal Attraction,” Michael Dogulas was simultaneously filming “Wall Street,” he would alternate days between the two film sets).
While Dan and Alex’s encounter at the book launch party could’ve been a one and done deal, it was not. The two are soon brought back together, because of pending litigation against the publishing house Alex works for. After a meeting regarding the lawsuit, Alex spots Dan outside on a Manhattan street, struggling with his umbrella, which fails to work in a heavy rain storm. She hurries over to him, and covers him with her umbrella. Dan suggests the two of them get a drink, and ride out the storm, at a nearby restaurant. Once inside, as drinks are being imbibed, Alex makes no secret that she’s attracted to Dan, and is more than willing to cater to his sexual desires. The two are soon headed back to Alex’s place, where all manner of fornication, in various locations, takes place. Dan leaves to go home, content with the passionate, one night stand, that he has shared with Alex. Once back home, however, Alex soon calls him, inviting him back out for more fun. As luck would have it, Dan’s wife is out of town with their daughter and Dan, has already received a phone call from his wife, informing him, that she’ll be away for another evening, so he gladly accepts.
At the conclusion of their fun filled weekend, Dan states, he has to leave; his wife and child will be returning, and he has to go back to being the dutiful husband and father he had been prior to their encounter. Dan was under, as it turns out, the misguided impression, that what he and Alex shared was a wonderful weekend together, and that at its conclusion, things would return to normal. While that might have been Dan’s mindset about their time together, it certainly wasn’t what Alex was thinking. In order to keep her relationship with Dan from ending, Alex commits the first of a number of brazen acts, to ensure that he stays a part of her life. The more Dan rejects Alex, the more she escalates her involvement in his life in detrimental ways.
“Fatal Attraction” premiered on September 16, 1987 in New York City, New York. James Dearden wrote the screenplay for the film, based off of “Diversion,” a short film he had written and directed in 1980. Dearden received an Oscar nomination for “Fatal Attraction,” as did the film’s director Adrian Lyne (Flashdance). The film, which had a budget of $14,000,000, was a box office success, its worldwide gross totaling approximately $163,500,000.
Trivia buffs takes note: A number of different actors and actresses were considered to play the parts that Dogulas and Close ultimately wound up portraying. For the role of Alex Forrest, actresses that were considered, included, but weren’t limited to, the following: Golden Globe winner Kirstie Alley (Cheers); Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue, who was already committed to filming “Adventures in Babysitting” at the time; Emmy winner Gilda Radner (Saturday Night Live); and two time Oscar nominee Isabelle Adjani (Camille Claudel) who was offered the part outright, but turned it down. Conversely, BAFTA winner Christopher Reeve (Superman) was initially offered the role of Dan Gallagher, but passed on the part. Reeve was far from the only actor being considered, a few of the many that were in contention for the role included: Oscar nominee Harrison Ford (Witness); two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forest Gump); two time Golden Globe nominee Dennis Quaid (Everybody’s All American); and Oscar winner Jon Voight (Coming Home).
What lengths will Alex go to in order to keep Dan in her life? Is anything off limits in her quest to make him her man? If Alex is acting irrationally, isn’t Dan, at least, in part, to blame? If he hadn’t cheated on his wife, and had rejected her advances outright, she would have had no reason to obsess over him. Those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion, which is worth watching, as previously mentioned, if for no other reason, than the intense chemistry shared on screen by Douglas and Close.
The film is ambiguous, in a sense, because both Dan and Alex, can be viewed as the instigator, or in the wrong, based upon their actions. Dan, did admit to being married, but he could’ve refrained from cheating on his wife. Alex, knowing that Dan had been truthful with her from the outset, didn’t need to take things to the extreme that she did, with a man, who never promised her he would leave his wife and commit himself to her. Who is in the right, and who is in the wrong, or do both Dan and Alex, get what they deserve based on their actions? In the end, the audience is left to decide.