The actor says she’d play the character of Alex very differently today.
Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas as adulterous husband Dan and Glenn Close as the mistress who becomes obsessed with him, was one of the most iconic films of the Eighties. It was also the source of a new, disparaging phrase to describe jealous or needy women: ‘bunny boiler’, after the scene in which Close’s character Alex does something unspeakable to Dan’s wife’s pet rabbit.
But while Fatal Attraction was well-received by critics and bagged Close a Best Actress Oscar nomination, the actor now says she believes the character of Alex was mishandled by the film’s producers.
Alex had a mental illness, Close told Radio Times, but this was not taken seriously by producers or by audiences in the Eighties.
“That did nothing but feed into the stigma,” she said.
“They made her into a psychopath. But people who suffer abuse can end up abusers.
“More interesting now would be the story from her point of view.”
This isn’t the first time that Close has expressed reservations about her role in Fatal Attraction. The film’s producers famously scrapped a backstory for Alex – that she had been sexually abused by a family member as a child – after it didn’t play well with test audiences.
They also cut many aspects of the script that would have lent Alex more psychological and emotional complexity, preferring instead to portray her as a no-holds-barred psychopathic villain. Notably, this included changing the ending at the last minute, so that Alex was shot dead by Dan’s wife instead of killing herself.
Close tried to fight against the ending change during filming, believing that it made it impossible for audiences to empathise with Alex, but eventually relented. “I wouldn’t have given up so easily now,” she told US newspaper Mercury News last October.
“In my head I tried to give her a dimension that was subconsciously more intriguing, but who knows?” Close continued. “I think it’s very tricky to portray mental illness faithfully. It’s so easy to make someone with a mental illness a villain.”
Close is the founder and chairperson of BringChange2Mind, a campaign to eradicate stigma around mental illness, which she founded after her sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Earlier this year, she discussed her Fatal Attraction character during an address at Oxford University.
“I wasn’t playing a generality, I wasn’t playing a cliché,” she said. “I was playing a very specific, deeply disturbed, fragile human being, whom I had grown to love.”
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