One reason used to explain our movie drought is that September’s not a great month for moviegoing, but that certainly wasn’t the case when FATAL ATTRACTION opened on Sept. 18, 1987.
The psychological thriller from Paramount and producers Stanley Jaffe & Sherry Lansing cost $14M to make and opened to a then huge $7.6M. It did $156.6M domestic & $320.1M worldwide, making it 1987’s top-grossing global film. When FATAL opened, distribution executives said its success proved movies were a 52 weeks a year business. Needless to say, times have changed.
Jaffe & Lansing made what turned out to be perfect choices with Michael Douglas & Glenn Close as the film’s troubled ex-lovers and Adrian Lyne directing. FATAL later received six Oscar nominations, including picture, directing & lead actress. But during casting there were so many potential choices, it could easily have been a very different movie.
The screenplay by James Dearden was based on his 1980 short film, DIVERSION, for British TV. Originally, Dearden was to write & direct FATAL, but Douglas wanted a more experienced director. Jaffe & Lansing needed Douglas to get the project made. They kept Dearden as a screenwriter, a most unusual compromise, and looked for another director. Brian De Palma said yes, getting them a green light from Paramount. But then De Palma refused to make FATAL with Douglas.
Lansing & Jaffee were loyal to Douglas for committing to the part, so they said goodbye to De Palma. They thought they’d lose their Paramount green light, but it just delayed starting production. They tried Tony Scott, who passed to direct BEVERLY HILLS COP II. They liked John Boorman (DELIVERANCE), but he was about to shoot HOPE AND GLORY. Then Adrian Lyne signed on. Lyne, who started out shooting commercials in London, was best known for Paramount’s 1983 blockbuster FLASHDANCE.
Casting Douglas’ role, Dan, had them at first considering actors like Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson & Al Pacino.
For Close’s character, Alex, they considered stars like Faye Dunaway, Mia Farrow & Anjelica Huston and auditioned Barbara Hershey, Sharon Stone, Debra Winger & others. Sally Field passed, claiming her fans wouldn’t accept her in such a role.
When Close auditioned she let her naturally frizzy hair go wild. She wore a black dress she thought was just right. Lansing was impressed that Close walked in looking like the part. Then Close & Douglas did a scene flirting in a café. Close left thinking she’d blown the audition and killed her career.
Lansing & Lyne, however, agreed she was perfect — and had brought Alex to life.
Alex: “I just want to be a part of your life.”
Dan: “Oh, THIS is the way you do it, huh? Showing up at my apartment?”
Alex: “What am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you’ve changed your number…I’m not going to be ignored.”