Although The Crush (1993) didn’t make many waves when it was first released, many look back fondly on the psychological thriller as a classic example of a crush gone wrong. The idea of a seemingly innocent girl turning into a near-deadly stalker can make even the strongest of willed look behind their shoulder.
The film starts with a journalist, Nick (Cary Elwes), moving to a new city and looking for a place to stay. After a string of terrible apartments, he ends up renting the guest house of a wealthy family. It seems like a great deal. It’s a beautiful house and the family has a friendly 14-year-old daughter, Adrian (played by Alicia Silverstone in her very first film role).
Soon, what seems like an innocent crush turns sinister when Adrian starts inserting herself into Nick’s life. She breaks into his apartment, steals his things, deletes his work, and tries to intimidate his girlfriend, Amy. After a last ditch effort to get him to be with her, she sets off a string of increasingly terrifying events culminating in Nick’s arrest for sexual assault of a minor and a violent showdown at Adrian’s mansion home.
Is The Crush based on a true story?
The Crush was written and directed by Alan Shapiro. Up until this point, he’d only written and directed a handful of made-for-TV movies, but when his wife reminded him of an experience he’d had a decade before, the premise for The Crush was born.
In 1982, Alan Shapiro was trying to make it big in Hollywood. He’d written and directed TV movies Briefly…Brian (1978) and Meeting Halfway (1979), but hadn’t really had his big break yet. He felt he needed to just hunker down and write, so he rented the guesthouse of a wealthy family in Los Angeles. There, he hoped to spend his time writing the screenplays that would eventually help him make it big.
That’s where he met Darian. She was the young daughter of the wealthy family who he’d been renting from. According to a Variety article from 1993:
Writer-director Alan Shapiro says in the production notes that the idea was inspired by an incident in his own life, where ‘a brilliant young woman’ developed a crush on him and refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.Variety
He moved out of the guest house and on with his life, but it was his wife a decade later who suggested he turn his story of a teen girl’s crush into a feature film. That’s exactly what he did. He wrote The Crush, following a man as he deals with an obsessed and dangerous 14-year-old. Unfortunately, he would get embroiled in a lawsuit for the film because of how he named Alicia Silverstone’s iconic character. Rather than giving her a new and creative name, he named her after the girl he knew in 1982: Darian.
If you watched The Crush when it first came out or have some older versions of the film, you can still hear the characters call her Darian. New versions have a new name though: Adrian. You might catch the clearly dubbed voices every time a character speaks the new name.
The name change is thanks to a successful lawsuit from the real life Darian and her family. The lawsuit was filed on October 7th, 1993–just six months after the film was released. They argued that using her name and portraying the character as obsessive and psychotic painted their daughter in a negative way. They were not only suing Alan Shapiro for libel, but Morgan Creek Productions and Warner Bros. as well.
In the end, the lawsuit was settled and the film studio agreed to change the name of the character in all subsequent versions and showings of the film. Although you can still find copies of The Crush with “Darian” as Alicia Silverstone’s name, it’s a lot harder to find than the newer “Adrian” version.
While The Crush is inspired by a true story, it’s only one side of that tale. Alan Shapiro wrote a tale of a 14-year-old girl seducing a grown man with dire consequences. It’d be interesting to see what the series of events would be like if it was written by the real Darian from her perspective. Would the minor have been written as the aggressor?
In the end, The Crush was moderately successful and launched Alicia Silverstone’s career. It didn’t have the same effect for the writer/director, though. Aside from writing and directing the 1996 dolphin movie, Flipper, Alan Shapiro has completely dropped into obscurity. He has no more Hollywood credits save for a brief role in a long-forgotten documentary about tornadoes in 2004, Tornado Glory. At this point, it would just be speculation as to why his career has ended, although having his feature film debut plagued by a lawsuit probably didn’t help.