Flashdance (1983): Director Adrian Lyne on his Movie

On the occasion of the new “Flashdance: Special Collector’s Edition,” director Adrian Lyne recalled the making of the film, back in 1983.

Though the film was very popular, Lyne is still best known for the 1987 thriller, “Fatal Attraction,” which received Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations; Lyne’s only nod from the Academy to date.

Inspirational Fable Script

When I first read the script by Tom Hedley and Joe Eszterhas, I thought it was a bit daft. But it’s really a fairy tale, and that’s that’s why it appealed to people: If you want something enough, you can get it. It’s a nave idea, but I guess it works. I remember working very hard with producer Don Simpson on the inspirational side of it.

Paramount production executive Dawn Steel asked me to do the movie. The budget was about $8 million. Many projects I was developing then weren’t happening. I was never crazy about the script, but I thought, maybe I can do something with the dances, maybe I can make those interesting. That was fun for me, the whole idea of putting a fan in a broken down TV and imagining that these girls could have done the same thing.

Women as Flashdancers

There were women who called themselves “flashdancers” and performed elaborate numbers in strip clubs, but the routines in the film were ours. I was always stealing stuff from magazines and things like that. The two blue light bulbs hanging down just before the water pours all over her head, I’d seen those in a magazine.

Wet Dance

I love the idea of selecting bits and pieces from life, from what you’ve read and seen, and sticking them in the movie. I wanted to do a wet dance because of the possibilities. Water on skin looks sort of erotic and sexual. And then you realize the water’s going to fly off and hit the audience. So if it hits a fat guy who’s the owner of the bar, you get a laugh out of that.

I tried to explain the wet dance to these cynical studio executives before we even cast. They were sitting up on bleachers and I was way down below with this sad girl, and wrapping a hose around her, not knowing what I was gonna do exactly. I remember the look of depression on these guys’ faces, just thinking it wouldn’t work. I also remember that they were worried whether the weight of the water falling on her was gonna break the girl’s neck.

Body Diouble

It was a hell of a lot of water. Marine Jahan, Beals’ dance double, was very good, the way she soldiered on and made it look like it was nice, but it was a nightmare. Before the movie opened, everybody thought it was gonna be a total disaster.

No More Smoke on the Set

Paramount issued a “no more smoke” sign midway through production, but I didn’t stop. We found less obvious ways of making smoke. I had these kind of biscuit things that you could burn. To be absolutely honest, I’ve used smoke on all of the films that I’ve done, including 91/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, and Unfaithful. I like the way it changes the colors. It makes them less garish, more pastoral. If you do it right, it doesn’t read like smoke.

In the two weeks before Flashdance came out, I couldn’t get anybody on the phone. It was like everybody had run for the hills because they thought it was gonna be a total disaster. I didn’t know either. Paramount sold at least a quarter of their interest in the film in those two weeks. In other words, they saw the film, and thought, Well, this is gonna go down the toilet. It’s funny. Giorgio Moroder, the composer, was talking to somebody else after the premiere, and he said, ‘But is it any good’ He was obviously panic stricken.

Opening Weekend

I sighed with relief, when the picture did $4 million for the opening weekend. It did close to $100 million domestically. It was $3 a ticket then, so that would be like $300 million now.

Taking the Bra Off

Jennifer was just trying on one piece of clothing after another, and I guess for convenience, rather than rushing out to the dressing room, she took her bra off underneath the T-shirt or whatever, and I was just fascinated by the contortion. To this day, I don’t quite know how she did it. I watched her at the time, and said, ‘I gotta use that. That’s wonderful.’

I adore seeing things and sticking them in the movie. I do that endlessly. I have lists, on bits of paper that I often lose, of stuff that I’ve seen. Like yesterday, I saw this great-looking guy and he was missing a tooth. It just made him way more interesting. So in my next movie, I’m gonna do that.

Beals’ Audition

I remember so well when she came in to audition. I remember trying to get her to cry, because I wanted to see whether she could. She cried quite easily, but I think mainly because she’d just lost all her luggage.