BOOK EXCERPT AT HOLLYWOOD REPORTER; HALLOWEEN SCENE HAD ALEX IN KABUKI MASK
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway posted an excerpt from his upcoming biography of former Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing (Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker, due April 25th). The excerpt covers a period of time in the 1980s, when Lansing was an up-and-coming producer, and the development of what turned into Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction. Prior to Lyne, however, it was Brian De Palma's involvement that got the project a green light. Although De Palma would eventually drop out because he did not think audiences would sympathize with Michael Douglas in the lead, the excerpt below provides intriguing details about what De Palma's film might have been like. For instance, James Deardon, who wrote and directed the short film that Fatal Attraction was based on, notes that with De Palma on board, "We even had a Halloween scene, with Alex running around in a Kabuki mask, terrorizing the household." Of course, years later, we see a killer running around in a Kabuki mask in De Palma's Passion.
For his part, last year, De Palma told Business Insider's Jason Guerrasio, "I think Adrian did a very good job with Fatal Attraction." Coincidentally, it was Lyne who ended up directing Flashdance after De Palma left that project to make Scarface. Here's an excerpt from Galloway's excerpt:
With the screenplay in place, there remained the question of casting. On a flight with [Stanley] Jaffe, Lansing ran into Michael Douglas, who read the script. "It was the perfect what-if, the ultimate quickie nightmare," he said.
The actor was no longer the B-list star Lansing had met when she served as an executive on 1979's The China Syndrome. But he still did not have the heft to get a film greenlighted on his name alone, and Paramount, where Lansing and Jaffe were based, passed on the project, as did every other studio. Its head of production, Dawn Steel, was so outraged by the script, she hurled it across the room.
"She yelled, 'How can you give me this? I'm a newlywed!' " recalled Lansing. "She said, 'Why should we care about a guy who cheats on his wife, especially when he doesn't have a reason?' But the fact there was no reason was the whole point. Things like that happen, and knowing it adds to the feeling of, 'This could happen to me.' "
She failed to persuade Steel, however, just as she failed to persuade numerous directors to sign on. "Everyone passed," she said. "I begged John Carpenter [Halloween]. And it wasn't just him. I begged everyone."
The movie was in trouble. Studio readers were sick of seeing the same old script recycled, making its way again and again through their story departments. And the agencies were bored with Lansing's repeated requests to show it to clients.
Everything changed when Brian De Palma (The Untouchables) said yes. The director was at the top of Hollywood's A-list, and Steel could not have been more excited. Suddenly it became her favorite project. Red flags might have been visible if Lansing had cared to look: De Palma did not share her sympathy for the jilted woman and wanted to make changes that seemed close to turning the story into a horror film.
"We even had a Halloween scene, with Alex running around in a Kabuki mask, terrorizing the household," noted Dearden.
But De Palma had Steel's support, and that meant Fatal was a go. Gearing up for the shoot, Lansing rented an apartment in New York, where the movie was going to be filmed, while Jaffe set to work finding locations and staff. Then De Palma had second thoughts.
"We were just a few weeks away from the shoot," recalled Lansing, "and he said, 'I can't make the movie with Douglas. Michael's completely unsympathetic. No one will ever like him.' " De Palma gave an ultimatum: "It's either him or me."
"It was one of those come-to-Jesus moments," Lansing continued. "De Palma was the element that got us a green light, but Michael had been on the movie for two years, when everybody else rejected us. We said, 'We're sticking with Michael.' "
With De Palma out, the film was dead. It had an actor nobody wanted and a script in which no one believed. Then ICM agent Diane Cairns sent it to her client Adrian Lyne. The British director was at home in the South of France when he received the package and sat down on the stone steps of his farmhouse to read it. He finished the whole thing without moving.
"I woke my wife up," he remembered. "I fell in the bed and said, 'Listen, if I don't f— this up, I know this is a huge movie.' "
A key piece of the puzzle lingered: finding Alex. "The role was critical because she had to be sexy but vulnerable, a career woman who had her act together but could still completely collapse," said Lansing. Her first choice, Barbara Hershey, was unavailable. Another possibility, French actress Isabelle Adjani, did not speak enough English. Debra Winger, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange were all considered or turned the role down. Melanie Griffith was also in contention, but the filmmakers feared that what she had in sexuality, she might lack in gravitas.
Cheers star Kirstie Alley read for the role and contributed a unique element to the film. "Her husband [Parker Stevenson] had been stalked by a woman who camped outside their house and made their lives hell," said Lansing. "Kirstie had saved a tape of the woman's calls and gave it to Adrian. You could hear the woman crying as she begged to be part of this man's life. Adrian ended up using it verbatim."