Twentieth Century Fox's taut thriller Sleeping with the Enemy was released to movie theaters in 1991. Julia Roberts stars as Laura Burney, an abused wife who fakes her death and begins a new life in Iowa. Here are 21 Sleeping with the Enemy ultimate movie trivia items and interesting facts...
1. Sleeping with the Enemy is based on the novel of the same name by Iowa-born author/poet Nancy Price. The book was published by Simon & Schuster in 1987 and garnered some excellent reviews. Reported Louise Erdrich in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune: “A tense, tightly woven novel…Price has managed inthe writing to be absolutely faithful to the villains as well as the victims…”
2. Leonard Goldberg produced Sleeping with the Enemy for Twentieth Century Fox. Penning the screenplay was Ronald Bass, with Joseph Ruben directing. Jerry Goldsmith created the original music score, which features selections from Hector Berlioz’ haunting “Symphonie Fantastique.”
3. Sleeping with the Enemy features a fairly sparse cast. Julia Roberts receives top billing as Laura Burney. Other cast members include Patrick Bergin (Martin Burney), Kevin Anderson (Ben Woodward), Elizabeth Lawrence (Chloe Williams), Kyle Secor (Fleishman), Claudette Nevins (Dr. Rissner), Tony Abatemarco (Locke), Marita Geraghty (Julie) and Harley Venton (Garber).
4. Sleeping with the Enemy was made for $20 million. The movie was filmed from April 2 to June 22, 1990, in both North and South Carolina. Shell Island Resort Hotel in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, served as Martin and Laura Burney's beach house. The movie’s carnival scene was shot at New Hanover County Fair Grounds in Wilmington, NC, while the college campus exterior shots took place at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC.
5. Other filming locations included Kure Beach, NC, and Abbeville, SC. Julia Roberts was not impressed with the latter, calling Abbeville “a living hell” and “horribly racist” and vowing never to return. True to her word, Roberts never did.
6. Sleeping with the Enemy is set in 1990 and opens on the beach at Cape Cod.
7. Martin Burney's occupation is financial advisor. He is apparently very successful, given the expensive beach home the Burneys occupy on Cape Cod.
8. In addition to being physically abusive, Martin Burney also suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He bats his wife Laura around because the towels in the bathroom were arranged incorrectly.
9. On the fateful night where Laura is apparently lost at sea, the Burneys are on a sailboat skippered by Dr. Fleishman, a neurologist from Boston. A search and rescue operation is mounted, but the only thing recovered is Laura’s life jacket. A funeral service later takes place on the beach for the presumably dead Laura, with a tombstone marking her ceremonial final resting place.
10. In flashbacks the viewer sees what really happened. Laura, clinging to a buoy in the raging storm, begins her narration: “That was the night I died, and someone else was saved…” She fakes her death to escape her abusive husband. Coming ashore during the storm, Laura returns to her home where she quickly changes clothes, cuts her hair, dons a wig and grabs some money and a single bag. She then slips off her wedding band, tossing it into the toilet.
11. Laura flees town on a Greyhound bus. She relates to another passenger that her "mother's marriage" (really meaning her own) lasted three years, seven months, six days.
12. Laura winds up in small-town Iowa, where she rents an old house at 408 Tremont and makes the acquaintance of Ben Woodward, who drives a vintage white Mustang and teaches drama at the local college. Calling herself "Sara Waters," Laura finds a job at the college library through Ben's assistance.
13. Martin Burney begins to suspect that Laura may still be among the living. One of the first clues: he catches a piece of glass in his foot while walking the beach, noticing that two outside lights near his home are broken, something he finds odd.
14. More clues follow. While atwork, Martin’s suspicions are further aroused when a woman identifying herself as Vanessa calls to offer her condolences. She tells an incredulous Martin that she knew Laura from the YWCA where they had taken swimming lessons together. Martin, who believed his wife to be a non-swimmer, is further taken aback when Vanessa relates that Laura had told her that she was involved in gymnastics – an obvious cover story designed to explain the bruises and other injuries she had suffered at the hands of her abusive husband. Seriously, gymnastics?
15. After talking to Vanessa, an angry, shaken Martin ransacks the house in search of evidence that Laura may have faked her death. He eventually finds one item – Laura’s gold wedding band – which is still resting at the bottom of the toilet. She should have tossed it in the ocean or pawned it in another city.
16. Martin offers a $10,000 bonus to a private investigator if he can find Laura's blind mother, Chloe Williams. The P.I. delivers, locating the woman at a nursing home. Martin poses as a police officer, slipping into Chloe's room and warning Mrs. Williams that her daughter's ex-husband is in the area. Yes, he's standing right in front of her!
17. After learning that his "dead" wife is seeing a drama teacher from Cedar Falls, Martin accosts the wrong teacher – a gay man as it turns out.
18. Martin locates his wife, eerily announcing his arrival: “Hello, Princess. It’s wonderful to see you.”
19. In a violent struggle, Laura manages to get Martin's gun, which she shakily points at her deranged husband. Martin dares her to call the cops. Laura obliges, asking the operator for the police. “This is Sara Waters, 408 Tremont,” she says into the phone. “Come quickly. I just killed an intruder.” Laura then pumps three bullets into the startled Martin, who collapses to the floor. But Martin isn’t quite dead yet, getting hold of the gun, pointing it at Laura’s head and squeezing the trigger once – only to discover that it’s empty.
20. Sleeping with the Enemy debuted on February 8, 1991. Said the Hollywood trade paper Variety: "In Sleeping with the Enemy, a chilling look at marital abuse gives way to a streamlined thriller delivering mucho sympathy for imperiled heroine Julia Roberts and screams aplenty as she’s stalked by her maniacal husband. Roberts is terrific in a layered part. Anderson brings an edge to the nice-guy-next-door role, and the dark, dashing Bergin is chillingly twisted.”
21. Sleeping with the Enemy grossed over $101 million, good for the #8 slot on the list of Hollywood’s top moneymakers for 1991.
"I can’t live without you. And I won’t let you live without me.” - Patrick Bergin as Martin Burney to wife Laura
- *Sleeping with the Enemy (Twentieth Century Fox, 1991)
- *Sleeping with the Enemy by Nancy Price (Simon & Schuster, 1987)
- *The Internet Movie Database
- *Minneapolis Star and Tribune
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.