Celebrating 30 years of Flashdance
“First, when there’s nothing but a slow glowing dream…”
It was in the early years of MTV, a revelation in music history, when Paramount Pictures released a movie called “Flashdance” on April 15, 1983.
As we all know, the movie tells the story of Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) who works as a welder by day and dancer at night. A young girl’s dream of wanting to become a ballet dancer against all odds.
Paramount Pictures did not really believe in the box office potential of the movie and albeit the mixed reviews, the film was a worldwide smash hit that became a pop culture phenomenon, grossing over $150 million and featuring an Award-winning soundtrack.
What is the secret of Flashdance, of its longevity? It’s hard to tell, nobody can foresee whether or not a storyline will touch people’s hearts as much as it did. Flashdance included the right ingredients: an encouraging tale about following one’s dreams, about love, friendship, integrity; a fairly unknown, beautiful young actress, fancy clothes and last but not least good music. In the first two weeks following the opening, the soundtrack sold 700,000 copies. Some sequences almost seemed like a gigantic videoclip, a new tool that later that year would also boost Michael Jackson’s career (Thriller).
There is a salacious rumor surrounding the casting of Alex Owens. When it was narrowed down to three finalists, a Paramount executive showed their photos to a group of construction workers on the lot and asked them which of these three women (Leslie Wing, Demi Moore and Jennifer) attracted them most. Allegedly it was Jennifer Beals. No matter the validity of this story, fact is that a star was born.
Jennifer was nothing like the faces of the late 70s, early 80s, such as Lauren Hutton, Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer or Molly Ringwald; she was quite unique. Most people thought she was of Italian or Spanish descendants but only a few considered her biracial even though she’s never denied her heritage. It may look like nothing but it was a step towards a better racial acceptance. For the first time, color did not matter; not least due to Jennifer’s acting skills, her personality and her being a “Yalie”.
Jennifer’s performance was like a fresh breeze. Alex was strong and vulnerable but also outspoken and independent. She earned her own money in a very male dominated world. Back then it was not a given at all that women had a career of their own and the cold war was still a reality. Jennifer touched our hearts and she accidentally influenced the styling of a whole generation mainly because of a washing mistake (she shrunk her sweat-shirt and in order to pull it over her head she had to cut a bigger hole as budgets were low and actors often wore their own clothes).
As a matter of fact, we all wanted to be like Alex in Flashdance: the hair, the headband, the legwarmers and most of all the ripped sweatshirt; she was just perfect. And so it happened that all of a sudden the world was full of Alex lookalikes and you know what? It was fun!
Only Jennifer herself seemed bewildered by the hype and intimidated. It’s probably only now, by hindsight, that she can appreciate what happened and also understand why she had become an icon in her first leading role. As Alex explains to Nick in that building under construction: “Sometimes when the music starts, it just clicks.” And there it is – the pop cultural phenomenon!
“What a feeling…” Happy Birthday Flashdance !!
Some facts and trivia:
Original release: April 15th, 1983 (Paramount Pictures)
Running time: 95 minutes
Director: Adrian Lyne
Writers: Tom Hedley, Joe Eszterhas
Cast: Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri, Sunny Johnson, Kyle T. Heffner, Lila Skala
Original Music: Giorgio Moroder
Cinematogrphy: Donald Peterman
- On her ballet school’s application, Jennifer writes her real birthday, 12/19/1963
- Jennifer was nominated for Best Actress in comedy/musical at the Golden Globes and won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture at the Image Awards
- The soundtrack sold more than 700,000 copies and the title track “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (Irene Cara co-wrote the lyrics in an hour on her way to the studio) was a number one single for six weeks and won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for BestMusic, Original song. The soundtrack won Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture at the Grammys.
- The song “Maniac” was originally written for a horror film called “Maniac”, Michael Sembello decided to change the idea from a murderer to a girl who loves to dance
- Jennifer had a number of body doubles for the dance scenes, Marine Jahan, Sharon Shapiro and a man called “crazy legs”
- The movie was a pet project of a female Paramount Pictures executive. The script went through 4 screenwriters before being re-written from scratch. David Cronenberg and Brian De Palma were approached to direct the film but turned it down. Adrian Lyne had to be asked 8 times to direct the film before he finally accepted
- Kevin Costner auditioned for the part of Nick Hurley, the part went to Michael Nouri. Also Bob Geldoff was offered a part in the film but he turned it down
- Jennifer Lopez made a music video in 2002 “I’m Glad” where she recreates scenes from the film
- On the occasion of it’s 25th anniversary the movie was turned into a stage adaptation, Flashdance The Musical, premiering in the UK in 2008 and leading up to a US run throughout 2013
- In 2010, Mattel released a limited edition of a Barbie Flashdance doll
- And just because this is cute
Written by Pebbles70 and BM for Jennifer-Beals.com