Glenn Close Regrets How 'Fatal Attraction' Handled Mental Health Issues

By Britni de la Cretaz 10/20/17

“I think it’s very tricky to portray mental illness faithfully. It’s so easy to make someone with a mental illness a villain.”

Glenn Close

Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close recently shared a regret she has regarding her storied, four decade-long career.

Reflecting on her 1987 film Fatal Attraction, Close now disagrees with the way her character was portrayed in the movie, conceding that it may have contributed to stigmatizing and damaging ideas about mental health issues.

Close, 70, has become an advocate for mental health awareness after two people close to her received diagnoses—her sister, Jessie Close, has bipolar disorder and her nephew, Calen Pick, has schizoaffective disorder.

Close told Mercury News that the producers of Fatal Attraction opted to strip her character, Alex Forrest, of a sympathetic or context-providing backstory. Instead, Alex was portrayed exclusively as a crazy killer who was obsessed with a married man and targeted his family.

“I think it’s very tricky to portray mental illness faithfully. It’s so easy to make someone with a mental illness a villain,” she said. But “the only truly evil person I ever played was Cruella,” she added, referring to her character in the 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians.

Close said that she fought with producers to complicate Alex’s narrative so audiences would have compassion for her, but she eventually relented. However, she says she “wouldn’t have given up so easily” now.

Last year, Close opened up about her own struggles with depression in an interview with Mashable. “I felt this inertia that would come over me,” she told the publication. “You think of something and it just seems too much, too hard. That’s how [depression] manifested in me.”

In an essay she penned that was published alongside the interview, she writes, “I come from a family that had no vocabulary for mental illness. Toxic stigma and the social mores of the time made any conversation about possible mental health issues taboo. That lack of conversation was very costly,” referring to how many people close to her have been touched by mental illness in varying capacities.

In 2010, Close founded Bring Change to Mind, an organization dedicated to ending the stigma around mental illness. The organization has both a high school and undergraduate program that encourages young people to start clubs and encourage a culture of education and support around mental illness.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.