Streaming on April 30, Paramount+ expands the classic 1987 film into an eight-part series starring Lizzy Caplan.
Over 30 years after Fatal Attraction became a cultural phenomenon when it was first released in theaters in 1987, Paramount+ is revisiting the erotic thriller starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close by expanding it into an eight-part series, with Joshua Jackson and Lizzy Caplan taking over the main roles.
Adapted by Dirty John creator Alexandra Cunningham, who also serves as the showrunner, the series also stars Amanda Peet, Alyssa Jirrels, Toby Huss, Reno Wilson and Brian Goodman, who all spoke to ET about this modern take on the now-classic but complicated tale about an affair gone wrong.
"It's a reimagining of the original 1987 movie," Peet says, acknowledging that not only does the series make some adjustments to key characters, but it expands upon the themes and overall world that were touchstones of the 119-minute film. She adds that Cunningham had the difficult task of "letting herself be awed by the film not enough" that she couldn't go beyond the original story.
"I feel like our story, that's our jumping off point. It goes in so many different directions," Caplan says, explaining that because "it's not a direct remake, that gives us a bit more wiggle room."
As broken down by the cast and the producers, here are some of the key differences between the 1987 film and the 2023 TV series.
When the series opens, audiences meet Dan Gallagher (Jackson) in prison, where he's up for parole after serving 15 years for the murder of Alex Forrest (Caplan). The series then unfolds over two timelines, one in the past, when the affair takes place, and the present, as the former district attorney tries to restore his name and reconnect with his family, ex-wife Beth (Peet) and daughter Ellen (Jirrels who plays a grownup version played by Obi-Wan Kenobi's Vivien Lyra Blair).
"In the original film, it seems like Michael Douglas is the quote-unquote victim of it and then it wraps up and everybody has the happily ever after. But you don't get to see the fallout," Jirrels says, with Jackson adding, "There's the surface level consequences that Dan has to deal with in the film. But we don't really get into his culpability and the consequences of his actions in the film."
As a result of the dual timelines, Peet says, Cunningham gets to "dramatize the future of a man who thought he was making a tiny mistake. But the ramifications became colossal."
When it comes to Beth and Ellen, who is now a college student in therapy, viewers get to see how the repercussions of Dan's actions affected the rest of the family as well.
In the film, Ellen "is the girl that gets her bunny boiled," Jirrels says, acknowledging that there wasn't much to pull from beyond that. But thanks to the time jump, "you get to see what being involved in something like that as a child will do to that person grown up. So, there's just more time to tell it, really."
As for Beth, viewers quickly learn that she picked up her life after her marriage fell apart and got remarried to her business partner, Arthur Tomlinson (Brian Goodman). "I think Alexandra was also curious about how she could sort of riff on the little bit that is shown in the original movie," Peet adds.
A Backstory for Alex
Ahead of the series' release, ET spoke to Close, who was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her turn as Alex, about what she wanted to see from the TV adaptation. "I hope they tell her backstory, her side of the story," the actress shared at the time, teasing that the original film even had one that they never used. "I mean, I would be flattered if it was the one that we came up with [originally], but obviously I'll be very curious."
"Glenn Close's performance is extraordinary and incredibly deep. But in the film, she was only given the space, the tip of the iceberg [to explore Alex's story]," Peet says, curious to know "what they came up with for her backstory… [It's] fascinating we've never seen that."
To the show's credit, Alex's character is not only expanded, but she also gets a backstory that offers more insight into her upbringing. As it turns out, she was raised by an unfaithful father (Cliff Chamberlain) and withholding mother (Lena Georgas), before becoming a victims' advocate who eventually encounters Dan in court. (In the film, Alex was an editor for a publishing company.)
"When you watch the film now, it's really hard to not want to know more about the Alex character. And if anything, it's really jarring to be reminded that in the '80s, the audiences were not looking for that at all," Caplan says. "They were not asking that question. It was not important to them."
Now, "we have far more real estate and time to get into that. And there would be no reason to remake it if we weren't going to dive more deeply into it," Caplan continues, with Jackson adding, "One of the benefits of having all of this real estate is that we really, actually do get into the why… We get to really understand her and where she's coming from."
Expanding up on that, executive producer Silver Tree says that "because we have so much time, we've really stretched out the arc of Alex and gotten a chance to understand what motivated her, and hopefully got to dig into some of her mental health issues and understand why she does some of the dramatic things that she does."
Friction Versus Passion
While the affair between Dan and Alex doesn't really pick up until episode two, it doesn't wait too long after that to bring the sexual element into the series -- one that is so pivotal to both versions of this story.
"A critical part of the story of Fatal Attraction is the chemistry, the sexual chemistry and people who are driven, who are tempted by that sort of fleeting but visceral hunger, whose lives are guided by that and upended by that," Peet says. "I think that’s gotta be there."
And what starts off as passionate becomes more complicated over time. Not only do "you have to believe the attraction between these two people," Jackson says, but "you have to believe there's some transgression to this attraction." As a result, "the sex scenes can't be vanilla or boring or just sort of by rote."
"These two people want to f**k, right? And that's really what it is. They're not love scenes. It's not a relationship that's been going for a long time and there's a friction to it. That is really important," he continues, adding that "there's an additional space, there is some -- not sexual violence, but there's some physical violence."
Simply put, "they're so toxic for each other," Jackson says.
An Expanded World
Of course, it's no surprise that with eight episodes and two timelines, the world of Fatal Attraction expands exponentially, particularly with new characters helping to flesh out the narrative.
"You have some characters that we didn't have in the original, right?" says Reno Wilson, who joins the franchise as Earl Booker, "a detective who spends his time on the streets" while working for Dan during his time as DA. "He kind of feels like Dan has a chip on his shoulder, so he's happy to pursue him and arrest him when he's a suspect for murder."
Toby Huss, meanwhile, plays Mike Gerard. "I was Dan Gallagher's mentor. I'm a special investigator with the DA," the actor says, adding that "there's a little bit of a father-son thing happening here. But Mike more than anyone believes in his innocence as this thing progresses."
Another new character is Maureen Walker played by Doreen Calderon. "Maureen is the fly on the wall, OK," Calderon says, revealing that "she knows Dan's business like nobody knows. She used to work for his father, who was a judge, which is really important to Dan 'cause it kind of affects him [and makes] him act the way he does."
And then there's Emma Rauch, "the nosy neighbor," played by Dee Wallace. She teases, "I get all up in it and I have the bunny rabbit."
As a result of all the additions to the cast, this is now "an entire world," Calderon says. "It wasn't just the main people in an elevator or a kitchen or whatever. It explores the entire world, the work world of both people, the at-home world, the play world -- all of them."
She adds, "It goes far beyond anything the movie was able to give us."
Bunny Stew and Cliffhangers
One iconic moment from the film is when Alex takes Ellen's pet bunny and puts it in Dan's stove to boil it. And it's Beth who discovers the dead pet and reacts in terror. "The bunny boiling and all of the scares are what made the movie so fun," Caplan says of the 1987 version.
When it comes to the series, Huss teases, "There's bunny stew this time. No soup… It's a good reimagining of the old thing."
And because of the liberties the series has taken with the original story told in the film, the show has left space for more of it to be told. "We've been told that they're interested in a second season. And we certainly hope that these cliffhangers that we developed will give us an opportunity for that," executive producer Kevin J. Hynes says. "We'd love to work with these actors again. I mean, they're just phenomenal."
Fatal Attraction will kick off with three episodes April 30 on Paramount+, with the remaining episodes debuting weekly on Sundays until May 28.