After Edison zapped Topsy the elephant with 6,000 volts of electricity on film, folks were wondering what’s next? Sex of course! Morality rules governing the sex act – or the depiction of sex via a metaphor was set in motion. The Production Code prohibited “excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures.” So now that lustful kissing and suggestive gestures – S.E.X – isn’t censored, how the hell do you write it?
What scene pops into your head when you think of “Fatal Attraction”? After the bunny boiler scene, chances are you’re thinking of the kitchen sink sex scene between Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. Just when things are getting really hot and heavy, the faucet turns on spraying water all over the place. Water is effective here. It’s wet. It gushes. It makes tremendous sound.
Director Adrian Lyne says that it’s not Glenn Close drenching Douglas’s car in acid. It’s not the film’s violent culmination in the bathroom – it’s the kitchen sink sex that people remember most about “Fatal Attraction.”
Would you believe that this memorable sex scene was only 30 seconds long? That, combined with the sex in the elevator and you have just a single solitary minute of coitus in this two-hour film. Yet that sinky-sex scene is so memorable… Why?
Think back to how many times you’ve had sex in the kitchen sink – on the stove top, or in the refrigerator. Be honest… If you’re like most people, you can count these instances on your fingers and toes… So why didn’t Lyne shoot the scene in a more typical location, say… the bed?
Adrian Lyne revealed why in the book, Film Directors on Directing, that he didn’t want the sex scene to take place in a bed “because it’s so dreary.” Interesting! So not every bedroom scene has to literally take place in a bed, cool! Something to keep in mind when we write our script sex scenes, right?
Check out what Lyne has to say about how to create a sexy situation… “I’ve always thought that sort of grabbed sex is more fun than that statuesque sort of bedroom stuff. So in “Fatal Attraction,” the scene where they [have sex] over the sink, I knew it had humorous possibilities because there was plates and cups in the sink. If you don’t get some humor in, the audience will laugh at you, because they’re nervous watching it.”
Okay, this is great insight. Most of us feel a bit awkward tapping into our inner peeping-Tom in the movie theater. Watching the colossal-sized actors get aroused makes us wiggle in our seats; a bit of humor releases this tension. Like sex, perhaps the best way to enjoy a sex scene is to be relaxed and in the moment.
Can you see how the sinky-sex in Fatal Attraction serves the story? By getting the sex out of the bed – a location that Lyne describes as “dreary” – certainly where you’d expect to have sex with your spouse, a place that is safe and expected – the affair is made more urgent and lustful when the characters grab intimacy in the most unlikely of locations. The kitchen sink. Yeah. A location centered around an activity of washing dishes – it represents domesticity. But by making this the centerpiece to drive-by sex, that domesticity is transformed into something wet, wild, and unexpected. This is Douglas’s character arc in a nutshell: a loving Father and Husband who has a momentarily lapse of judgement falls into the absolute worst-case-scenario as far as extra-marital affairs go.
Plus… the second kitchen sink scene resonates more when Close reveals her suicide attempt. Her wrists bleeding, Douglas puts them under running water in… where else – the kitchen sink. The very location where they had sex. A terrific visual of “before” and “after” – foreshadowing that pain, blood, death – are what’s to come from that one moment when Douglas was weak.
Michael Douglas was great in these domestic thriller flicks, don’t you think? Check out why the screenplay sex scene in Disclosure worked so well.
Written by: Mich Medvedoff