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Fatal Attraction Review: An Attorney Risks It All For One Night Of Sex

Fatal Attraction Michael Douglas Glenn Close
Editorial Credit: Paramount Pictures

Fatal Attraction: The Story

Michael Douglas plays Dan Gallagher, a successful New York attorney with a beautiful wife and child.  

He has a passionate weekend fling with book editor Alex Forrest (Close).  Refusing to accept that it was just a glorified one night stand, Alex begins acting inappropriately, harassing and stalking Dan and eventually becoming obsessive and violent towards both Dan and his family. 

Fatal Attraction struck a chord when it was released.  Loosely seen as a cautionary tale against having unsafe sex, it’s anecdotally credited with keeping a generation of men faithful to their partners. It also spurned the term ‘Bunny Boiler’ as a description of a woman who begins to act obsessively after a short relationship or one night stand.  

Far from being the raunchy drama that probably got a lot of bums on seats at the cinema, Fatal Attraction is a masterful display of the art of building tension and suspense, only to pay off with some genuinely scary moments. 

Michael Douglas is believable as Dan, who panics about the threat to his marriage after he realizes he’s had an affair with an unstable woman. But it is Glenn Close that steals the show.  Her performance is crazed and powerful as a woman who has been used and cast aside only to twist that abandonment through her own tormented past and neuroses. 

A man being so relentlessly pursued by a woman was also a twist on the typical movie stalker tropes. 

  • Directed by: Adrian Lyne 
  • Run time: 1 hr 59 min
  • Release date: 15th January 1988
  • 18 Certificate
  • Starring:  Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer
Fatal Attraction Movie Review
Editorial Credit: Paramount Pictures

Did you know

Michael Douglas shooting Wall Street at the same time as Fatal Attraction.  Both movies had to organize their shooting schedules so that Douglas could alternate between them during the week. 

Editing and Sound Design

Editors Michael Kahn and Peter A. Berger were nominated for an Academy Award for their work on Fatal Attraction. The tension that builds up throughout the famous ‘bunny boiler’ scene leaves you holding your breath in apprehension as they cut between the stove and the approaching Anne Archer. 

The score is worked into the moments of Grand Guignol perfectly, building up to the inevitable jump, which still surprises you, even though you know its coming. 

The Set

Fatal Attraction takes place in extremely ordinary surroundings, which is why it struck a nerve with so many people when it was released. This was not a far fetched story that was playing out on the screen, how many people who had had an affair could see the similarities in their stories and Dans.  

Ultimately, these spaces that we see as safe, our homes, become the place of terror and violence. Lyne used the technique of moving the wall of the set in very slightly to represent Dan’s situation.  It’s a trick that was used in the classic 12 Angry Men and would be used again years later by Bryan Singer in The Usual Suspects. 

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction
Editorial Credit: Paramount Pictures

Casting

Michael Douglas was becoming more in demand in Hollywood, after landing the lead roll in Wall Street (which he was shooting at the same time).  Glenn Close had to fight for her role as both the director and producers didn’t think that she was sexual enough for the role.  Eventually, a number of other actresses passed on the part, and Close was given her chance to audition again, where she wowed everyone.  To prepare for her role, she sent the script to a number of psychiatrists, asking them if this is how a woman with a history of abuse might act in this situation.  

Fatal Attraction: Action Sequences

Fatal Attraction builds up to a claustrophobic battle that is all the more threatening for its realness. During one take, where Glenn Close is thrown back against a mirror, she hit her head so hard she had to be taken to hospital, it was there she found out that she was pregnant with her daughter. 

The Finale

The original ending of Fatal Attraction was completely changed after it tested badly with focus groups, which meant that the entire ending was re-shot. However, though the original would have been a more just ending for both lead characters, the final confrontation between Alex and Dan is the stuff of cinema legend.  

Fatal Attraction is one of those rare films that went beyond the sex scenes and lodged itself uncomfortably in the audience’s psyche. It certainly made attorneys think twice about sex outside the marriage.

Fatal Attraction Michael Douglas Glenn Close

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