Jennifer Beals stars in arguably one of the most iconic scenes in movie history.

The star of '80s cult film Flashdance was only 17 when she scored the role of budding dancer Alex Owens in the romantic drama.

The movie — which is streaming on Foxtel — follows Alex after several setbacks, as she finally builds up the confidence to attend an audition to a prestigious professional dance school.

At the audition, Alex stuffs it up, before starting again and nailing a dance number composed of various aspects of dance she had studied and practised, including breakdancing which she had seen on the streets of Pittsburgh.

Advertisement

It was a success, both in the film and in real life, with the scene and its catchy tune still as popular today as it was when the movie hit cinemas in 1983.

The song written for the film, FlashdanceWhat a Feeling, went on to win an Academy Award, sparking a "feeling" for music and dance that defined the '80s and has lived on in modern times.

Jennifer Beals in Flashdance in 1983. Photo / Supplied
Jennifer Beals in Flashdance in 1983. Photo / Supplied

When it was first released, Flashdance actually received mostly negative reviews by professional critics, but it was a massive success at the box office success, becoming the third highest-grossing film of 1983 in the US.

It had a worldwide box-office gross of more than $200 million, with a budget of only $7 million.

It also catapulted its leading lady — Beals — to superstardom. She was the pin-up poster girl of the '80s and just about every man's dream woman.

It seems casting directors knew she'd be a hit, with a widely circulated and somewhat controversial report emerging at the time about how she was chosen for the part.

Beals in the '80s. Photo / Getty Images
Beals in the '80s. Photo / Getty Images

It came down to Beals, A-list star Demi Moore and relatively unknown actor, Leslie Wing.

The film's scriptwriter Joe Eszter has claimed then-Paramount president Michael Eisner asked "two hundred of the most macho men on the lot, 'I want to know which of these three young women you'd most want to f**k'."

Advertisement

It appears they went with Beals.

And now! Still got it. Photo / Getty Images
And now! Still got it. Photo / Getty Images

It was her first ever big role in Hollywood, and despite appearing in small projects here and there, Beals made the decision to quit Hollywood after Flashdance to pursue American Literature studies at Yale University.

"It's funny … because everyone thinks it's something very particular but to me it seems quite normal. My idea was to continue my education," Beals told Latin website El Salvador.

"I didn't think to turn my back on my studies. The way I was thinking was, 'I love university, I love learning, I love the experience of being in a classroom and that's what I decided to do.

"I chose something that was positive for me, a positive experience, because I didn't expect to have a career in Hollywood, or to make the correct chess moves.

"I never thought about it. I filmed Flashdance when I graduated from high school and later continuing my education in university seemed the next logical step. Didn't even hesitate a second. On the contrary, I was excited because I wanted to go back to study."

While she had many offers scattered on her talent agent's desk, Beals said she preferred to focus on her studies, adding money was never enough of a drawcard to continue in the industry.


"When there was any proposal, it was very respectful, and I had to refuse because I had too many exams and could not work," Beals said.

"But I don't know … I never had big admiration for the money. It doesn't mean that I don't like the money, because I love it. But as they say, when I'm not in this world, I won't be able to take it with me."

After graduating from Yale, Beals returned to showbiz with some success, but she never quite reached the heights of her Flashdance days.

Beals went on to appear in Vampire's Kiss alongside Nicolas Cage, as well as Devil in a Blue Dress opposite Denzel Washington.

She also starred in several long-running television shows including 2000 Malibu Road, The L Word and The Chicago Code, and is currently starring in the horror series Swamp Thing.

While she has had a decent career in Hollywood — with a solid resume under her belt — it was expected she would become more of a household name among tinseltown A-listers.

And while she made the decision to leave Hollywood all those years ago; she said there was no way she'd ever leave again.

"No, no, no. I can always leave and return," Beals said. "But this time, if you want me to leave Hollywood, you're going to have to throw me out."

Beals also addressed the controversy surrounding Flashdance that she didn't do much dancing in that scene, with a body double stepping in to perform instead.

"The truth is that I didn't have a body double in Flashdance. I had four," she admitted.

"Before giving interviews to promote the film, one of the producers asked me not to speak about the body double, and I told her that having worked so hard, they were fantastic and deserved it.

"I would have never ignored the body double, because for me they are part of the crew. And a good movie needs them all, from the sound man, up to the writer.

"They all make the film. And I had this incredible woman who did a dance sequence if I could not do it … and if she couldn't, there was another woman, and if she couldn't, there was a sixteen-year-old boy. That's how we filmed the most famous scenes of Flashdance."