Once a Washout, Anne Archer Now Bubbles Up in Fatal Attraction
It's certainly pushing Paramount's microprocessors: Fatal Attraction has become a mother lode of box office magnetism, pulling in a chart-topping $32 million in only its first few weeks. Archer may be right that the movie has everything, and thanks to the miracle of market testing, the film also has something it didn't possess in the original cut. It boasts an excruciatingly tense and satisfying ending, which gives the 5'6" Archer the film's powerful payoff moment—and a long awaited career breakthrough.
Archer, 40, plays the fiercely protective wife of Manhattan lawyer Michael Douglas, who has a fling with high-powered but clearly off-kilter book editor Glenn Close. Douglas' dalliance turns into every man's nightmare when Close wires her biological time clock to psychic explosives and terrorizes his family. It's an AIDS-era marital horror film with a twist: The deadly sex-related disorder isn't viral but psychiatric. Director Adrian Lyne (Flashdance, 9½ Weeks) and screenwriter James Dearden have created a terrifying, out-of-control world where truly safe sex requires the use of Thorazine.
Fatal Attraction originally ended with Close's grisly suicide, rigged to look as if Douglas had murdered her; two preview audiences felt the conclusion was fatal to the film. "I don't think Paramount wants to talk about that," snaps Archer, who nevertheless goes on to defend the tactic of quizzing audiences to make a movie more commercial. "It's intelligent movie-making," she says. "If you didn't have that [new] crescendo ending, audiences would walk out mad, considering the tension that built up."
The intricately edited new finale took $1.3 million, two weeks and three bathtubs to reshoot on a Manhattan soundstage. "The cuts and the angles," Archer sighs, "the steam, the stunt work, the blood, the knives—I mean, it took forever. But it obviously works like gangbusters. I saw the first ending. It wasn't strange that they reshot it. It was gutsy."
Say the same for the lady herself. Married for nine years to ABC Sports producer/director Terry Jastrow, Archer put her acting on the back burner a few years ago and decided on a fetal attraction. After making Naked Face with Roger Moore in 1983, she came to the conclusion that "my career was pretty dead. I had had such a rough time of it. I'd put off having kids with Terry, waiting every year, thinking, 'I'm going to get that big movie—things are going to open up for me.' But at a certain point I said, 'This is crazy,' so I went ahead and got pregnant." Their son, Jeffrey, is 2½; Anne also has a 15-year-old son, Tommy, from a first marriage to Bill Davis, a California rancher with whom she is still friendly.
The daughter of actor John Archer and actress Marjorie Lord, Anne grew up in L.A. and graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. She always wanted to be an actress, in spite of "seeing my mother's success on TV [Make Room for Daddy], then seeing her dropped like a hot potato after the show went off the air. It made me leery of ever thinking that you're sitting on top of the world."
Anne's career never posed that problem. She made plenty of movies she didn't love—Lifeguard, Hero at Large and Green Ice—and missed getting parts in movies she did love. By the time she auditioned for Fatal Attraction, Archer had returned to acting "because I needed to earn some money," appearing as Cassandra Wilder on Falcon Crest. Director Lyne says he selected her to play the Fatal wife because "I wanted to avoid the cliché of the gray stay-at-home wife." No argument with his choice.
Living in a sprawling, hillside house in Bel Air, where she spends most of her free time tending to her two boys, Archer now gets about 30 calls a day from friends who've seen Fatal Attraction. While some wish her well, some want to confide a pale version of a Fatal-esque scenario. "I've had a number of men friends tell me of a woman who became insistent, intrusive and difficult or threatening," says Archer.
In her own marriage it seems unlikely that Archer will have to reenact the movie bit, though she says she'd probably handle it with the same resolve shown by her character, Beth. She calls her relationship "pretty solid," though Jastrow, 39, is away three-fourths of the year on business. "We have no secrets," she says. "He's a solid guy, my best buddy, and I know what his commitment is, and it makes a woman feel pretty secure." Terry's feelings? "She's so loving, sensitive and beautiful, sometimes I have to pinch myself," he says.
With her stunning comeback in Fatal, it's almost certain that Archer will feel the need to pinch herself pretty soon. The offers are piling up. The "vacuum" of years past is filled. "I made peace with myself," says Archer. "Before I had Jeffrey, I decided I wasn't going to grow old and bitter over what didn't happen in my career. Now I feel absolutely wonderful to be in a good movie, to be proud of my work and have it acknowledged. But I have to get on with it—and the game's still going to be hard. Now, because of the success of Fatal Attraction, I have to give an incredible audition to get something over Kathleen Turner, Jessica Lange or Susan Sarandon. The competition is going to be a lot tougher."
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