If you’re expecting Paramount+’s new eight-episode series Fatal Attraction to be just a stretched out retelling of the 1987 Glenn Close–Michael Douglas movie, prepare yourself for new twists, new characters, and a fresh storyline for the family bunny.
Minor spoiler: He makes out better than he did in the Adrian Lyne–directed movie’s pot-boiling scene. But he does get some equally memorable time on screen, and it still involves Alex Forrest, the emotionally disturbed woman (now played by Lizzy Caplan) whose affair with cheating family man Dan Gallagher (now played by Joshua Jackson) leads to stalking and death.
Other updates to the psychological thriller classic: Dan’s wife, Beth, played by Anne Archer in the movie, is now played by Amanda Peet; the Gallagher daughter, played by tween Ellen Hamilton Latzen in 1987, is now all grown up and portrayed by Alyssa Jirrels; and the ending, while still revolving around a death, sparks a mystery that you may be convinced you’ve figured out — but you probably haven’t.
Here are eight things to know — minus any major spoilers, duh — about the new deep dive into love, hate, destruction, and pop culture’s most cleverly named bunny.
In the movie, we find out at the end that Alex dies, while philandering Dan pretty much gets to go back to living his life, with his family, and without much in the way of personal consequences (the same cannot be said for the other women in his life, traumatized Beth and Ellen, whose pet hare fell victim to Alex). The series starts with that ending for Alex, and serious consequences for Dan, who goes to prison for her murder. The rest of the episodes take a deeper dive into the beginning, middle, and end of Alex and Dan’s relationship, Alex’s tortured past (which was quickly dismissed in the movie), and more time spent on the long-lasting impact of Dan’s short affair on his family, friends, and colleagues.
Movie Dan worked as attorney in New York City. TV series Dan is a hotshot Los Angeles district attorney and that adds to his own legal woes. He arrogantly expects to sidestep fallout of his affair with Alex (a victim advocate who works with Dan), and then fallout of her murder. He also expects longtime friend and fellow crimebuster Mike (a new character played brilliantly by Toby Huss) and detective Earl (another new, scene-stealing character, played by the great Reno Wilson) to help him out of his accused murderer jam, even though he looks increasingly guilty. Earl, especially, is a stand-in voice for the audience in not letting Dan off the hook.
“It’s really cut and dry with Earl Brooker,” says Wilson. “He enjoys his job. He enjoys being an investigator, and his relationship with Dan was … (Earl) feels like he’s out there on the streets doing the Lord’s work, and Dan is in the office living high on the hog, feeling good about himself. So, when he had the opportunity to arrest him or get him for a heinous crime, it was something that he took pleasure in doing.
“Earl’s a guy who’s all about the law, and he knows this guy … he’s like, ‘OK, you are a little bastard, aren’t you?’”
Another new character who makes a major impact on all members of the Gallagher family: Arthur (Brian Goodman), Beth’s business partner and best friend, who’s taking care of his dying wife while trying to help his friends through their drama. In the Fatal Attraction movie, Fred Gwynne played a different character named Arthur, who was Dan’s boss.
The series doesn’t shy away from the sex or violence of the movie, which Jackson says he “has a vague recollection of [seeing for the first time] on a VHS in a basement.” The Affair alum and co-star Caplan agree that filming scenes of violence between Alex and Dan were their toughest days on set.
“Most people think the intimacy scenes would be the most challenging, but I think Josh and I approach those in the same way,” Caplan told Rotten Tomatoes. “Which is the open-minded understanding of how insane our job can be, and that it’s worth keeping things light and not shying away from the silliness, the ridiculousness of that … we’re both well-versed in that side of things. But the violent side of it … certainly there was no joking around between takes. That shook us both up.”
Jackson added, “Intellectually, as an actor, you can separate yourself, maybe, from the actions that you’re taking while the camera’s rolling. But when you’re in a scenario where a 6’2”, 180-pound man is standing over a smaller-framed woman, there’s a physical reality to those scenes that is quite intense. And when you’re in the midst of that, your body doesn’t know the difference.”
Jackson also thinks both Dan and Alex are the story’s villains. Or that neither of them are villains.
“I don’t consider either of the two characters to be; [but] if either one is the villain, then they’re both the villain, right?” he said. “And I think what is more interesting in having the opportunity to tell [the story] over eight hours is that you hopefully feel sympathy and empathy for both of these characters at several different points, right?
“And obviously, Alex takes some actions that are far beyond the pale, but humans do bad things, right?” he continued. “It’s just part of living a life. You make decisions that are questionable, and there are consequences for those decisions. And on the Dan side, I think he is the match that lights the fire. And then he’s the one that is not willing to be accountable. And so they are kind of in an arms race with each other. So they’re both culpable for all of the things that happen … he invites this mess and chaos into his life. In order to try to not take responsibility for it, he tries to shunt off this woman who reacts badly and they just keep on trying to top each other. For me, I think it’s for a modern lens, certainly, but I think it’s just a better telling of the story from a modern perspective, that they both share the burden of being the good guy and the bad guy.”
Amanda Peet, whose Beth is a stronger, more fleshed out character than was Anne Archer’s Beth in the movie, signed on for the series because she was happy to see showrunner Alexandra Cunningham’s more empathetic take on Alex Forrest.
“Just the fact that Glenn Close’s [Alex] became the butt of a long-running joke that we all still use, the bunny boiler: ‘Are you going to boil my bunny?’ was like a shorthand for a psycho stalker-type woman in the dating world,” Peet said. “I like the idea that Alexandra is like, ‘Really? Let’s take a closer look at this, and let’s turn this on its head a little bit,’ She’s also really interested, obviously, in Dan’s accountability, where the movie isn’t as much. So it’s still sexy, and it’s always interesting, why do people have affairs? Why at that particular moment do people have affairs? Why are those two people the people who crossed the Rubicon together? But all of these things that were swept under the rug in the movie, Alexandra is bringing it all out.”
There’s little we can share in the way of storyline specifics about Beth and Dan’s college student daughter, Ellen, except to say she is a significant part of the series, and has experienced a lot of pain throughout the years, thanks to her father’s affair and all its aftermath. Ellen actress Alyssa Jirrels sums up the series’ multiple twists thusly: “I was floored.”
We’re also dying to tell you, but we’ll say only this about the name of the bunny who crosses Alex’s path: it’s a nod to a country singer-songwriter who had several major crossover hits in the ’80s.