Fatally Attractive

In the new thriller A Kiss Before Dying, Matt Dillon stars as a mad killer with more than a hint ofthe all-American boy. Trevor Johnston meets the film’s British director James Dearden (who also scripted FatalAttraction), and wonders why his movies seem to have a beginning, a middle and at least two endings.

Although the period espionage n drama Pascali 's Island garnered much critical respect on its 1988 5 release. British writer and director James Dearden probably remains best known for neither writing nor directing the hysterical final scenes ofthe previous year‘s misogynist blockbuster Fatal Attraction. Although the screenplay credit bore Dearden’s name. it was no secret that fellow Englishman Adrian Lynne reshot the ending (rather more subtly. the use of Puccini‘s Madame Butterfly indicated that the Glenn Close character had committed suicide) under pressure from advance previews to up the revenge factor. Hence the distressing ‘Kill the bitch!‘ finale. eventually released to much public whooping and hollering.

Even so. an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay did no harm at all in establishing Dearden‘s name on the Hollywood talent lists. and three years on here he is with his first studio movie. A Kiss Be 'are Dying. an updated adaptation of novelist Ira Levin‘s thriller. first filmed in 1956 with Robert Wagner and Joanne Woodward. Here. though. it's Matt Dillon whose name nestles above the title as an ambitious psychotic murdering his way into wealthy copper magnate Max Von Sydow‘s family. In a dual role. Sean Young plays both older and younger daughters. each ofwhom find themselves falling prey to mad Matt‘s deadly charm.

his own adapted screenplay. but with ‘From The Creator Of Fatal Attraction‘ emblazoned prominently on the poster artwork and the general tone being one of high-powered star mayhem. you'd be forgiven for detecting a faint ring ofif-you-can‘t-beat-‘em-join-‘em hovering over the whole affair.

Not quite. says Dearden. who these days divides his time between LA and. erm. Fulham. ‘1 was trying to reach a wider audience and as an Englishman it‘s bloody difficult to make your first movie for Universal.‘ reflects the son of noted old school British film-maker Basil Dearden. 'A way to do that seemed to me to take the basic thriller. serve up your requisite jolts and shocks for the Saturday night crowd. but at the same time have a bit of fun as a film-maker. 'l‘he sensibility here is slightly off-centre because it‘s paying homage to and quoting from a lot of Fifties movies. The Hollywood convention these days is what passes for realism but A Kiss Be ore Dying is really done in a kind ofstylised. ironic manner.’

Actually. the irony-spotters out there will have to be on top form to make sure they spot what Dearden terms the (ahem) ‘element ofSirkian melodrama‘ in all this. It seems that the process ofmoulding the film for mass appeal has smoothed out many ofthe more intriguing insights into class. power and capital investment in the source material. in favour or rather more familiar

proud of me. ma.‘ or ‘I believe in the family. it‘s the most important thing there is.‘ you do at least get some sense of the tongue-in-cheek tone he’s trying to go for.

To some extent though. the finished result. with its annoying loose ends and unexplored avenues. does pay tribute to what has evidently been another troubled production history. Although it's set in New York and Philadelphia. Dearden opted to shoot most of the film in Britain‘s Shepperton studios to gain control over the degree of stylisation he was seeking. but most recent press reports have drawn attention to the existence of (you guessed it) another entirely different ending. captured on celluloid in South Wales‘s glamorous 'l‘remorfa Steelworks.

‘1 low shall I put this'." asks the director. whose hair scents to have greyed a little since we last met on I’ascali's Island. ‘Let's just say that we had the luxury ofshooting two different final scenes. The alternative denouement was set in Von Sydow‘s copper works where Sean traps Matt into a confession and he eventually ends up covered in molten metal. a human statue. 'l'he

climax we‘ve ended up with. without giving too much away. is rather more visceral. which I think is what the audience really wants at that stage after all we’ve put them through.‘

A Kiss Be ore Dying (/8) opens a!


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