Thursday, March 25, 2010

What is the real Fatal Attraction?

Has it really been five months since I posted? What's wrong with me? Have I abandoned my readers? Will they ever trust me again?

Okay, internalization aside--I had some deadlines for the paying job that took precedence. The fruit of that labor is a three-book series set in contemporary Oregon. God Gave the Song is out now, Crossroads Bay is due out next month, and Fine Feathered Friend just finished the editorial process. These books are published through Heartsong Presents, a book club for Barbour Publishing, and will eventually be bundled together into one book and sold to bookstores. But you can order them directly from the publisher if you'd like. Just follow the links by clicking on the titles above.

Consider the above paragraph an ad, like what you see in the theater just before the movie that goes into way too much detail just because you're a captive audience. Yeah. Just like that.

Now on to our feature presentation.

Fatal Attraction, (the movie, not the trend among celebrity husbands lately,) is the focus of my thought today. I had an aha moment regarding this film during Oprah's Oscar special where the stars interviewed each other. Glenn Close and Michael Douglas sat in empty theater seats and chatted about their 1987 suspense flick. It was cute to see them gush over each other's work and blush in appropriate places. But the mood changed when Michael mentioned the end of the film. You could tell he knew what reaction he would elicit from Glenn, but I was totally caught by surprise.

It turns out that the producers changed the ending to give the movie more marketability. And in doing so, ruined the character, Alex Forrest, played by Glenn Close. At least, that's what she believed. And after hearing her passionate explanation of events, I tend to agree with her. She had finished filming, but then a few weeks later, the producers brought her back to shoot a different ending.

The final act, if you recall, is kicked off by the pet rabbit, slaughtered and stewing in a pot on the stove. Alex has lost it, and now she's out for blood. The rest of the movie involves thrashing, survival, sharp objects--everything you'd expect from a thriller as Alex dukes it out with Anne Archer, who plays Douglas's wife, and Douglas himself. After the nail-biting action, Alex ends up dead in the bathtub at the hands of her would-be lover. A pitiful creature with a truly fatal attraction.

But that's not how the film was originally shot. According to Glenn, the ending was much sadder for her character. Alex, sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor, tragically slits her own throat. A much more poignant film, one with a more powerful message, perhaps.

Glenn said she had done a lot of research on this character. What makes her tick? Why does she believe this relationship can work? How will she end it when she knows she's lost? That last question had been answered in the first cut, where she took her own life. But the powers-that-be at Paramount Pictures decided to give the people what they want--a knock down, drag out Freddy Kruger type of ending. This cheapened Alex's journey, and turned her into a much more twisted, evil character than was originally intended.


As writers, we must hold true to our research. If we find out what makes a person tick, we shouldn't turn that into a time bomb just to make our work more flashy, dare I say--more marketable. If you spend several hundred pages putting flesh, bones, and thoughts into a character, be true to that character.

Was the real fatal attraction our bent for violence? Was the audience so blood-thirsty that it demanded yet another slasher film? Did Fatal Attraction benefit from this changed ending? Well, box office numbers don't lie. Perhaps it did sell more tickets than it would have with the artsier ending. But then again, people could be whispering about how it still haunts them.

Instead, they talk about the rabbit.


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