Fatal Attraction is a 1987 American psychological thriller film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, and Anne Archer. The film centers around a married man who has a weekend affair with a woman who refuses to allow it to end, resulting in emotional blackmail, stalking, and an ensuing obsession on her part. The film was adapted by James Dearden and Nicholas Meyer from an earlier 1980 short film by Dearden for British television, Diversion.
Fatal Attraction was a hit, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 1987 in the United States and the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. Critics were enthusiastic about the film, and it received six Academy Award nominations, including that for Best Picture, Best Actress for Close and Best Supporting Actress for Archer.
Contents[edit | edit source]
- 2 Cast
- 3 Reaction
- 4 Home video
- 5 Play
- 6 Psychiatric diagnosis
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Plot[edit | edit source]
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a successful, happily married New York attorney living in Manhattan when he meets Alexandra "Alex" Forrest (Glenn Close), an editor for a publishing company, through business. While his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and daughter, Ellen (Ellen Hamilton Latzen), are out of town for the weekend, he has a passionate affair with Alex. Though he thought it was understood to be a simple fling, she begins clinging to him.
Dan explains that he must go home and Alex cuts her wrists in a suicide attempt. He helps her to bandage them and later leaves. He thinks the affair is forgotten, but she shows up at various places to see him. She waits at his office one day to apologize and invites him to the opera, but he turns her down. She then continues to telephone until he tells his secretary that he will no longer take her calls. She then phones his home at all hours, and then confronts him saying that she is pregnant and plans to keep the baby. Although he wants nothing to do with her, she argues that he must take responsibility. She shows up at his apartment (which is for sale) and meets Beth, feigning interest as a buyer. Later that night, he goes to her apartment to confront her about her actions which results in a violent scuffle. In response, she replies that she will not be ignored.
Dan moves his family to Bedford, but this doesn't deter Alex. She has a tape recording delivered to him filled with verbal abuse. She stalks him in a parking garage, pours acid on his vehicle, and follows him home one night to spy on him, Beth, and Ellen from the bushes in their yard; the sight of their family life literally makes her sick to her stomach. Her obsession escalates further. Dan approaches the police to apply for a restraining order against her (claiming that it is "for a client"), to which the lieutenant claims that he cannot violate her rights without probable cause and that the adulterer has to own up to his adultery.
At one point, while the Gallaghers are not home, Alex kills Ellen's pet rabbit, and puts it on their stove to boil. After this, Dan tells Beth of the affair and Alex's pregnancy. Enraged, she asks him to leave. Before he goes, Dan calls Alex to tell her that Beth knows about the affair. Beth gets on the phone and warns Alex that if she persists, she (Beth) will kill her. Without Dan and Beth's knowledge, Alex picks up Ellen at school and takes her to an amusement park, buying her ice cream as well as taking her on a roller coaster. Beth panics when she realizes that she doesn't know where Ellen is. She drives around searching and rear-ends a car stopped at an intersection and is slightly injured and hospitalized. Alex later drops Ellen off at the Gallaghers' house, asking Ellen for a kiss on the cheek.
Dan barges into Alex's apartment and attacks her, choking her and coming close to strangling her. He stops himself, but as he does, she lunges at him with a kitchen knife. He overpowers her, but puts the knife down and leaves, with Alex leaning against the kitchen counter, smiling. He approaches the police about having her arrested, and they start searching for Alex to bring her in for taking Ellen. Following her release from the hospital, Beth forgives Dan and they return home.
Beth prepares a bath for herself and Alex suddenly appears, again with the kitchen knife. She starts to explain her resentment of her, nervously fidgeting (which causes her to cut her own leg) and then attacks her. Dan hears the screaming and runs in, wrestles Alex into the bathtub and seemingly drowns her. She suddenly emerges from the water, swinging the knife. Beth, who went searching for Dan's gun, shoots her in the chest, killing her. The final scene shows police cars outside the Gallaghers' house. As Dan finishes talking with the cops, he walks inside, where Beth is waiting for him. They embrace and proceed upstairs as the camera focuses on a picture of Dan, Beth, and Ellen.
Alternate ending[edit | edit source]
Alex Forrest was originally scripted to die by suicide at the film's end by slashing her throat. Her plan was to make it look as if Dan had murdered her, for which he would be arrested. Although Beth is shown to possibly have a way to free him when finding a revealing tape that Alex had sent him and taking it to the police, test audiences did not respond well.
This resulted in a three-week reshoot for the action-filled sequence in the bathroom and Alex's death by gunshot. Her shooting by Beth juxtaposes the two characters, with Alex becoming the victim and Beth taking violent action to protect her family.
In the 2002 Special Edition DVD, Close comments that she had concerns re-shooting the film's ending because she believed the character would "self-destruct and commit suicide." Close's opinion was also corroborated by psychiatrists.
However, Close gave in on her concerns, and filmed the new sequence after having fought against the change for two weeks. The film was initially released in Japan with the original ending. The original ending also appeared on a special edition VHS and LaserDisc release by Paramount in 1992, and was included on the film's DVD release a decade later.
During the film's release, the critical media, who knew about the alternate ending, tried to portray Alex as a victim discarded by a somewhat callous lover, but audiences would have none of it, and the idea of Alex as a "victim" rather than a psycho was eventually completely dropped.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher
- Glenn Close as Alexandra "Alex" Forrest
- Anne Archer as Beth Gallagher
- Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ellen Gallagher
- Stuart Pankin as Jimmy
- Ellen Foley as Hildy
- Fred Gwynne as Arthur
- Meg Mundy as Joan Rogerson
- Tom Brennan as Howard Rogerson
- Lois Smith as Martha
- Mike Nussbaum as Bob Drimmer
- J. J. Johnston as O'Rourke
- Michael Arkin as Lieutenant
- Jane Krakowski as Babysitter
Reaction[edit | edit source]
After its release, Fatal Attraction engendered much discussion of the potential consequences of infidelity. Feminists, meanwhile, did not appreciate Alex's depiction as a strong career woman who is at the same time profoundlypsychotic. Feminist Susan Faludi discussed the film in Backlash, arguing that major changes had been made to the original plot in order to make Alex wholly negative, while Dan's carelessness and the lack of compassion and responsibility raised no discussion, except for a small number of fundamentalist men's groups who said that Dan was eventually forced to own up to his irresponsibility in that "everyone pays the piper".
The film spent 8 weeks at #1 in the U.S. and eventually grossed $156.6 million domestically and was the second highest-grossing film of 1987 in the U.S. behind Three Men and a Baby. It also grossed $163.5 million overseas for a total gross of $320.1 million, making it the biggest film of 1987 worldwide. 
Much of the film's plot was spoofed in the 1993 comedy Fatal Instinct.
Awards[edit | edit source]
The film received six nominations for the 60th Academy Awards ceremony:
- Best Picture
- Best Actress in a Leading Role—Glenn Close
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role—Anne Archer
- Best Director—Adrian Lyne
- Best Film Editing—Peter E. Berger and Michael Kahn
- Best Adapted Screenplay—James Dearden
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills—#28
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Alex Forrest—Villain—#7
Home video[edit | edit source]
A Special Collector's Edition of the film was released on DVD in 2005. Paramount released Fatal Attraction on Blu-ray Disc on June 9, 2009. The Blu-ray release contained several bonus features from the 2005 DVD, including commentary by director Adrian Lyne, cast and crew interviews, a look at the film's cultural phenomenon, a behind-the-scenes look, rehearsal footage, the alternate ending, and the original theatrical trailer.
Play[edit | edit source]
Main article: Fatal Attraction (play)
Psychiatric diagnosis[edit | edit source]
The film's female lead has been discussed by psychiatrists and film experts, and has been used as a film illustration for the condition borderline personality disorder. The character displays the behaviors of impulsivity, emotional lability, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, frequent severe anger, self-harming, changing from idealization to devaluation, consistent with the diagnosis, although generally aggression to the self rather than others is a more common feature in borderline personality disorder.
As referenced in Orit Kamirs' Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives and the Law, "Glenn Close's character Alex is quite deliberately made to be an erotomaniac. Gelder reports that Glenn Close 'consulted three separate shrinks for an inner profile of her character, who is meant to be suffering from a form of obsessive condition known as de Clérambault's syndrome' (Gelder 1990, 93—94)".
Bunny boiler[edit | edit source]
The slang term "bunny boiler" has passed into popular parlance as a term for a jealous mistress, based on the film's infamous rabbit boiling scene. The phrase's first use in print was on December 6, 1990 in The Dallas Morning News, in which Glenn Close described her character in that film using the term.