Welder. Stripper. Steel-town girl on a Saturday night, lookin’ for the fight of her life. Alex (Jennifer Beals) really is the female Rocky. And even without Beals’ participation, the new Flashdance: Special Collector’s Edition DVD (out now) is a knockout. We phoned director Adrian Lyne for a few rounds of trivia and, as it turns out, some refreshingly brutal honesty.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I never realized that Flashdance was the female Rocky until someone called it that on the DVD. How did you envision the movie while you were making it?
ADRIAN LYNE: When I first read the script [by Tom Hedley and Joe Eszterhas], I thought it was a bit daft, really. But in the end, it’s a fairy tale. I think that’s why it appealed to people: If you want something enough, you can get it. It’s a sort of naïve idea, but I guess it works. I remember working very hard with [producer] Don Simpson on the inspirational side of it, pushing people’s buttons.
What made you sign on, then?
[Paramount production exec] Dawn Steel went on and on at me about doing the movie, and I finally saw that they were gonna spend $8 million on it and it was actually gonna get made. So many of the things I was developing [in 1983] just weren’t happening, you know…. I was never crazy about the script, but I thought, well, 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.
There really were women who called themselves ”flashdancers” and performed those sort of elaborate numbers in strip clubs, but the concepts for the routines in the film were all yours, right?
Pretty much. 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. I love that side of directing. I just love the idea of selecting bits and pieces from life, from what you’ve read, from what you’ve seen, and sticking them in the movie. I remember really wanting to do a wet dance, because of all of the possibilities of that. Obviously, water on skin looks sort of erotic and sexual. And when you start doing your wet dance, you realize the water’s going to fly off and hit everybody in the audience. So if it hits a fat guy who’s the owner of the bar, you get a laugh out of that. I love the way things build. I remember trying to explain [the wet dance] to these deeply cynical studio executives before we even cast. They were sitting up on bleachers and I was way down below with this sad girl, and sort of wrapping a hose around her, not knowing what I was gonna do exactly, but just knowing that I wanted to do a wet dance. I remember the look of real depression on these guys’ faces, just thinking it wouldn’t work. I also remember that they were genuinely worried whether the weight of the water falling on her was gonna break the girl’s neck.
But you did tests, obviously.
I’m sure we did tests, but you never quite know. It was a hell of a lot of water. Marine Jahan [Beals’ dance double] was very good, the way she just soldiered on and made it look like it was nice. But it was obviously a nightmare. [Laughs]
NEXT PAGE: ”In the two weeks before Flashdance came out, I literally 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.”