Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Michael Ordoña

Lizzy Caplan, Joshua Jackson and the 'Attraction' in reimagining an iconic film

Lizzy Caplan and Joshua Jackson knew what they were getting into when they signed on to the reimagining of "Fatal Attraction" as a Paramount+ miniseries. The film was 1987's highest grosser; it received six Oscar nominations; it starred Oscar winner Michael Douglas and now-eight-time nominee Glenn Close in perhaps her most iconic role; it featured lines and moments that have entered the cultural lexicon.

And Caplan says of making a new version: "Everybody's initial reaction when anything so beloved is revisited is aversion."

So why reboil that bunny? You might say it was a drive for justice for the character Alex Forrest. And maybe justice to Dan Gallagher.

"It was mostly because of the conversations I had with [showrunner] Alex Cunningham, combined with reading a lot of what Glenn Close felt about the movie and the treatment of Alex Forrest," Caplan says of taking on the female lead. "It felt like one of those iconic things that could maybe benefit from a reimagining through a modern lens."

Alex was unambiguously the film's villain, the dirty-dream-girl-turned-nightmare for a successful lawyer (Dan, played by Douglas) stepping out on his wife. When their affair goes wrong, Alex becomes wildly unhinged, even murderous. For Caplan, it was a chance to more fully explore the rich ground sowed by Close with the benefit of modern eyes that might see Alex more deeply.

"We treat women differently in the culture now," she says. "We treat women who are struggling with mental illness differently. That alone was incentive enough to hop on board. For me, the most fascinating part was the comment we were making on the audiences themselves — the 1987 audience member versus the 2023 audience member. We've changed quite a bit.

"For me, it's the B-side to what Lizzy was just saying," Jackson says of what interested him about the miniseries, and playing Dan. "The progress that we've made as a culture and the progress that we've made as an audience, in what our expectations are and how we are willing to see characters be more whole, rather than in the simple good-evil binary."

Close's original intent informed Caplan's exploration of the character — including how 1987 tastes steered Alex's fatal course.

"There was a different ending to the film that they changed because the test audiences had this blood lust and wanted to see Alex die in a certain way."

Alex's original fate was a solitary suicide to the strains of "Un bel di vedremo," the instantly recognizable aria from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" — the story of a woman tragically spurned by a feckless lover. Studio executive Ned Tanen told Vanity Fair those test audiences "want us to terminate the b— with extreme prejudice," leading to the now-familiar ending of Alex being killed violently by Dan and his wife (played by Anne Archer, also nominated for an Oscar).

Close, Caplan says, "was very committed to portraying Alex not as this heinous villainous person only. She did a lot of work on mental illness and her back story. It's all very meticulous, impressive work that you can see on-screen if you're looking for it, but the film itself wasn't looking for it. And again, audiences at that time were not primed to look for it."

Whereas Alex eventually pays the ultimate price for her sins in the film, as Jackson points out, Dan essentially gets off scot-free.

"Dan does not face a lot of repercussions for his actions," he says. "He doesn't really feel accountable for being the one who pushed the first domino. His wife is mildly annoyed that he had an affair but very quickly is on board with just trying to get that damn woman out of their lives. It was interesting to take that character and use it as an examination of male frailty and what happens to an ego — particularly of a white man, of a certain economic class and a certain level of achievement — what happens to that ego when it's pushed out of its comfort zone.

"And then to examine the rippled-out repercussions as our timeline jumps forward 15 years," he says of the miniseries' added time frame, depicting what happens years after the affair, "you see how these things metastasize over time and have unintended consequences you're dealing with for the rest of your life."

The series looks more deeply into Dan as well: his quest to live up to his neglectful father's standard of accomplishment and the addition of a career disappointment that perhaps sparks his transgression. So although even the film's Dan was never exactly an innocent in this conflagration, Jackson wanted to make clear he threw the first match.

Dan's bruised ego "is why he reaches out for Alex. And what he has unwittingly done is, he's reached out for his perfect opposite number. They are the perfect toxic combination.

"This man who who presents himself as literally a paragon and arbiter of justice" as a district attorney in the miniseries, as opposed to a corporate lawyer in the film, "is willing to move around the edges of what is morally or ethically correct in order to prove he's right. His belief system is a millimeter deep."

Although the actors seized on the miniseries' opportunity to rethink the story and characters, there were pieces of the original performances that proved invaluable to their versions.

Jackson talks about how Douglas "moved through space" in the original, living what Jackson calls "a frictionless life. Everything in his life allows him to navigate space with ease and confidence." He says that made for a heady plunge "when all of that has fallen apart 15 years later. So that's where I stole from my betters and brought the original Dan into the new Dan."

Caplan says revisiting Close's indelible delivery of "I'm not going to be ignored, Dan" unearthed layers.

"I remembered that as a very scary line, a threatening line. Then in rewatching it and knowing a bit more about what Glenn Close was trying to do, to me it's a sadder delivery than I had previously seen. It's a line of desperation and utter confusion. She thought they were on the same page; it's not just some random one-night 'mistake.' They have a few days together, and there's a real emotional connection as well as a physical connection.

"So I tried to look for ways to take that feeling into what we were trying to do: She really just was begging for him to explain why this went sideways. It's a much more tragic character when you watch it with that in mind."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.