In the Paramount+ series “Fatal Attraction,” Joshua Jackson and Lizzy Caplan take on the iconic roles first played by Michael Douglas and Glenn Close in the 1987 film, a time when erotic thrillers competed at the Oscars. But in those 36, times have changed.
“The movie is in an era of time where we were much more comfortable, oddly, examining human sexuality. We seem much more prudish now in the way that we deal with this,” Jackson told TheWrap.
While the industry debates whether to tone down onscreen intimacy or skip sex scenes entirely, the series, which premieres on Sunday, April 30, doesn’t shy away from showing the steaminess of the central affair and features partial nudity from both leads.
TheWrap sat down with Jackson, Caplan, showrunner Alexandra Cunningham and director Silver Tree to discuss how Hollywood’s attitude to sex has changed in the last few decades.
TheWrap: Have you heard the conversation that people think there shouldn’t be as many sex scenes in TVs and movies today?
Joshua Jackson: I don’t know what that conversation is. But I actually feel like we need more of this. I feel like we examine sexuality on screen in a much more prudish way now. The movie is in an era of time where we were much more comfortable, oddly, examining human sexuality. We seem much more prudish now in the way that we deal with this.
Showrunner Alexandra Cunningham: Yes, there is that talk. But at the same time, if you’re doing something that’s renowned as an erotic thriller, you have to lean into it to a certain extent, especially with this property, which is really, the reason the storytelling is happening at all is because of this encounter. So we need to represent it.
Lizzy Caplan: There was a period of time where [sex in movies and TV] was a constant presence. Now I feel like there’s actually less of it. It seems like there’s been a shift in the past few years, which is a reflection of the bigger society and the societal mores. But I did get very bored of the “let’s stop the narrative and the action so we can just watch two actors simulate sex with each other, and then we’ll get back to the story.” If it’s not part of the narrative, I do think that it’s a bit useless.
Joshua Jackson: You can tell the story of sexuality without the actual representation of sex. [Today] we also have a better understanding of how to present bodies and the scenarios in which we do that. I wish that we were examining sex and sexuality more in the narratives that we’re telling because it’s so central to who we are as human beings. And part of our broader job is to be reflecting the culture back to itself.
Silver Tree: I consider intimacy scenes very similar to stunts. Logistically, it’s a much easier time to film these sorts of scenes, because there’s a lot of safeguards in place.
I think the most important thing to me was to make sure there was enough chemistry between these two people. Because if you don’t have that, there’s no story. And these actors immediately had chemistry, so most of the work was done for me. The scenes needed that chemistry, obviously, in the sort of animalistic nature of two people devouring each other. But then I had to make sure the Alex character is metabolizing the experience in a way that is so impactful, that she’s not going to be able to let go of this person, without conveying that and scaring Dan off. So it’s definitely a dance.
The first three episodes of “Fatal Attraction” premiere on Paramount+ on Sunday, April 30.