After a wild one-night stand, Derrick (Michael Ealy), a successful sports agent, watches his perfect life slowly disappear when he discovers that the sexy and mysterious woman he risked everything for is a determined police detective (Hilary Swank) who entangles him in her latest investigation.
As he tries desperately to put the pieces together, he falls deeper into her trap, risking his family, his career, and even his life. Lionsgate’s Fatale is a suspenseful and provocative psychological thriller and an unpredictable game of cat and mouse where one mistake can change your life.
Fatale stars two-time Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank (Best Actress – Boys Don’t Cry, 1999, and Million Dollar Baby, 2004) as the title villainess and Michael Ealy as her prey, a successful and attractive sports agent whose indiscretion leads him into a deadly cat-and-mouse game and a fight for everything that has ever mattered to him.
Ealy’s Derrick Tyler seems to have it all: a thriving sports agency, a beautiful wife, Tracie (Damaris Lewis), and a majestic home atop one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive neighborhoods. But something is amiss with his marriage; Derrick and Tracie are at odds about their respective careers, and Derrick suspects she might be having an affair.
A bachelor party in Las Vegas offers a much-needed distraction for Derrick, who’s accompanied there by his business partner Rafe (Mike Colter). As the party unfolds, Derrick draws the eye of an intriguing woman and, urged on by Rafe, he approaches her.
They have immediate sexual chemistry, as the mysterious beauty, Val, confides that Vegas offers a “therapeutic getaway” from her high stress job. They enjoy a wild night of passion – what Rafe calls a cure for seven years of marriage – and Derrick returns the next day to his work and home, with his night of sin providing a wake-up call and a new determination to repair his strained marriage.
But Derrick’s troubles are just beginning. Not long after seeming to be on the road to reconciliation, he and Tracie are awakened by an intruder. A vicious fight ensues between Derrick and the masked thief, with Derrick nearly being killed before the assailant escapes into the night. Shortly thereafter, the police arrive, led by the crime’s chief investigator, Detective Quinlan … Val Quinlan.
Derrick is frozen with incredulity at the turn of events, as Val, for her own as yet unexplained reasons, begins to slowly turn the screws on him. The stakes become even more heightened as Derrick experiences a stunning betrayal and loss, and Val plots the final moves in her deadly game.
One Mistake Can Change Your Life
Fatale offered Hilary Swank a new kind of role, one she quickly embraced. “The character of Val fascinated me as it tapped into playing with what drives us as human beings and the lengths to which we’ll go for family,” she explains, hinting at the character’s motives.
“It was a world I was excited to explore.” “Fatale is a cat-and-mouse thriller that has many twists and turns and an unusual sexual energy weaved in, but it’s unexpected in Val’s motivations,” Swank elaborates.
“In early screenings of the film, I loved watching the audience freak out when things got turned around for both Val and Derrick.”
Hilary Swank interview:
Michael Ealy says he was drawn to the project by the question it poses: “What happens to a person after he begins to lose everything he cares about?” he asks. “Derrick seems to have it all, but what he has materially versus what he possesses emotionally is a fascinating dynamic. After he makes a single mistake, Derrick starts to lose everything, and you begin to see what he’s made of.”
Both Ealy and Swank were also drawn to Fatale by the opportunity to work with director Deon Taylor. “I’m always excited to work with directors I’ve never worked with before, and in genres new to me,” says Swank. “When Deon approached me to play Val, his energy, passion, and kindness first sold me on the project. And it didn’t hurt that it’s a great edge-of-your-seat story.”
Ealy, on the other hand, was already familiar with Taylor’s signature brand of thrills, having collaborated with the filmmaker a year earlier, on The Intruder. “I was happy to join forces with Deon again, as well as have the opportunity to work with Hilary,” says the actor. “The character and script spoke to me, and I knew the role of Derrick would really challenge me.”
“I truly believe Hilary and Michael’s on-screen chemistry and presence together is award-worthy,” says Deon. “Fatale is electric – and when you add the Academy Award®-nominated director of photography Dante Spinotti, you have a piece of art that will stand the test of time.”
Making a Classic Contemporary and Fresh
One of the most exciting filmmakers in the industry, whose credits include the recent hit thrillers The Intruder and Black and Blue, Deon Taylor points back to the high-powered thrillers from the 1980s and ‘90s as an inspiration.
“I’d go to the theatre, grab the popcorn, and escape for two hours,” he remembers. “Those films, like Fatal Attraction and Body Heat, are so cool and clever that you can’t help but think about them long after leaving the theatre.”
That love and appreciation of the genre led Taylor to come up with his contemporary spin on it. “I wanted to create a film for today’s audiences that evoked that same feeling I had when I was younger – to make something intense, scary, and sexual, and have the audience yell at the screen, ‘Don’t do that!’” he laughs.
“I really love making movies that will have audiences interacting with what’s happening onscreen. I like to convey some messages, but at the same time provide a release and fun. I wanted Fatale to embody all those things that you love going to the movies for.”
For Michael Ealy, the choice to work in the contemporary noir genre was an exciting challenge. “What I enjoy about the genre is that you don’t have any gimmicks,” he says.
“You can’t distract the audience, like in horror with jump scares. It’s not about scares, it’s about getting into the heads of the audience.”
Taylor presented his idea to his wife and business partner in the independent production company Hidden Empire Film Group, Roxanne Avent Taylor. “I loved Deon’s idea for the film, because I love movies where you’re on the edge of your seat, have a lot of drama and suspense, and where you think you’ve figured out the story and ending – but you really haven’t at all,” says Roxanne.
Deon moved quickly, re-teaming screenwriter David Loughery as a follow-up to their 2019 success The Intruder, which took in over $40 million on an $8 million budget.
Fleshing out Deon’s idea and then writing the script, Loughery appreciated how Deon’s idea was in the classic tradition of film noir but with a contemporary viewpoint. “It really excited me to go back to those kinds of films while making it relevant for today, exploring the element of fate in which the protagonist makes a mistake and is plunged into a nightmare,” he notes.
For the title character, Deon says that he had his eye on casting Swank. “Hilary knows how to take bold risks on film,” he says. “We knew that Hilary would provide unexpected dimensions to Val and make the character unlike any we’ve seen before. She’d be sexy from the start, then peel back the layers of the character. Hilary was perfect for the role because she’s such a contemporary actor, but at the same time she has that golden age femme fatale quality.”
Swank worked with Deon and Loughery to develop the character of Val, giving the character a backstory and new, intriguing layers. “I was so impressed – Hilary was at the top of her game, even at this early stage,” says Deon.
“In Hilary’s vision for the character, as written by David, Val is smart, funny, naïve, and mentally disturbed. She’s been through a lot, and she fights for what she believes in. You can hate Val but still understand her motives. This is why Hilary is not only our star, but a producer: her mark is on the film.”
“When I came aboard, the character of Val was already rich and nuanced. Together, we worked on nudging the specificity of her motivation,” says Swank. “I wanted it to be clear in Val’s mind and in the audience’s mind why she was doing what she was doing.”
Roxanne adds, “Hilary is so thorough and passionate about her work. She really challenged us, and we worked as a team to get it right. There are so many layers to Val, and working with Hilary to build the character was a terrific experience.”
Swank notes that despite Val’s dark intentions, she is definitely relatable. “We all have dark thoughts, even if they’re only brief and fantastical. Val has decided to indulge in the darkness. Duality is an inevitable part of human nature.
“This film does a wonderful job of presenting the good and the bad, the dark and the light of human nature, and then repeatedly turning that on its head so you’re not sure what or who you’re rooting for. It was a blast to play a character who, on the page, may seem dark, but has moments of light that we can empathise with.”
Swank’s dedication to the film and to her role also impressed her on-screen victim, Michael Ealy. “Hilary gives you everything you need to make a scene work. It was good to see how someone who’s achieved so much in her craft still has that hunger and discipline and focus every day she’s on set.”
The film was relesaed in the US on December 18th, but we are still waiting on a UK release date, due to Covid.
The film stars Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Danny Pino, and Tyrin Turner. Directed by Deon Taylor. Written by David Loughery. The producers are Roxanne Avent Taylor, p.g.a., Deon Taylor, p.g.a., and Hilary Swank.
The executive producers are Robert F. Smith, Marc A. Hammer, David Loughery, and Philip Schneider. The Director of Photography is Dante Spinotti, ASC, AIC. The Production Designer is Charlie Campbell. The film is edited by Eric L. Beason, ACE and Peck Prior. The music is by Geoff Zanelli.