Former FBI secretary Erin Grant (Demi Moore), loses custody of her young daughter Angela (Rumer Willis) to her ex-husband Darrell (Robert Patrick), who is a criminal and cost Erin her job. To afford an appeal to get her daughter back, Erin becomes a stripper at the Eager Beaver, a Miami strip club. A Congressman named David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds) visits the club and becomes infatuated with Erin. Aware of Dilbeck's embarrassing indulgences, another Eager Beaver patron approaches Erin with a plan to manipulate the congressman to settle the custody battle and help her get Angela back. However, Dilbeck has powerful business connections who want to ensure he remains in office. Consequently, those who can embarrass him in an election are murdered. Meanwhile, Erin retrieves her daughter from Darrell's negligent care.
Dilbeck's personal interest in Erin persists, and she is invited to perform privately for him. He asks her to become his lover and later his wife, despite his staff's concerns that she knows too much. A debate occurs as to whether to kill Erin or simply keep her quiet by threatening to take away her daughter. However, Erin and a police officer Al Garcia (Armand Assante) begin to suspect the congressman's guilt in the murders, and Erin concocts a plan to bring the congressman to justice. She tricks him into confessing on tape, and he is soon after arrested. Thus, Erin regains full custody of Angela, quits stripping, and gets back her job in the FBI. Darrell returns to prison after he is convicted of his crimes.
Castle Rock Entertainment produced Striptease. The film is based on the novel Strip Tease by Floridian crime writer Carl Hiaasen. It was published in 1993 and was a bestseller.
The screenplay itself was written by Andrew Bergman, who also directed. According to one critic, the novel's plot is "quite faithfully followed" by the screenplay, but in bringing the complicated story to the screen, "Bergman forgets to explain persuasively what a nice girl like Erin — smart, spunky and a former FBI employee — is doing in a dump called the Eager Beaver."
Bergman says, "I loved the book, and the funny thing was, [author Carl] Hiaasen loved the movie. He thought it was really, really true to the book, which I wanted to do! I don’t regret it. I was treated like a freakin’ child molester for making that movie, but so be it."
Concerns that the ending of the film was not comical enough resulted in rewrites and reshoots, causing a one-month delay. Part of these concerns owed to test screenings, where audiences objected to a scene where Dilbeck becomes violent. Later test screenings also turned up less than favorable reactions.
"Striptease was hard because the tone was so crazy," said Bergman. "How do you stay true to the tone? You have to be true to those strip clubs. There’s always some woman with like 50 triple-Ds, they always advertise, and you have to have someone like that. To actually see it, you’re walking this fine line. I didn’t want to sanitize it, and I didn’t, and I got my ass kicked for it."
Moore played the main female character, Erin Grant. For the film, she was paid $12.5 million, which was at the time a record for an actress.
Bergman later said, "Is Demi the funniest person in the world? No. Would the movie have been made without her? Probably not. No other major star was willing to take her clothes off, and I was not going to do a TNT version of Striptease with people running around in swimsuits."
To prepare for her role, Moore visited strip clubs in New York City, California, and Florida, and she met with strippers. Moore really did dance topless in the part, and this was the sixth time she showed her breasts on film. She also read the novel, exercised, and practiced yoga. Moore was cast before other important parts were cast, creating some interest in the project. In the first attempt at filming Moore stripping, two hundred actors were used to portray the audience. Although their salaries were small, many accepted the role to see Moore nude. After waiting for a while, when Moore finally appeared and started dancing the crowd turned so loud and wild that the shooting had to temporarily cease. As Moore said, "After my experience, I felt very confident."
The cast included some notable real-world strippers such as Pandora Peaks. Rhames plays a bouncer named Shad. The filmmakers, in trying actors out for Shad's part, looked for someone "at least 6'2 and physically massive...any ethnicity." (Rhames is African American). Reynolds played Congressman Dilbeck, and he based his performance after politicians he knew in his early life, through his father, a police chief. Reynolds was not an actor that the filmmakers originally had in mind for the part, but Reynolds wanted it, contacted Castle Rock head Rob Reiner, and traveled to Miami to audition. He accepted a salary lower than what he had made in his earlier career. Moore's own daughter Rumer Willis, who was 7 years old when the film was released, played Erin's daughter Angela. As Moore explained, "she [Willis] wanted it so badly" that Moore asked that Willis be considered for the part. In reality this required Willis to see Moore dancing topless, for a scene in which Angela sees Erin performing. However, Moore said that this was acceptable, as "We don't shame the body, we encourage the body as something beautiful and natural, and my children bathe with me, and I walk around naked."
"Talk about a happy set," said Bergman. "We were shooting in Miami for six months. It was a gas.”
Striptease: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on June 25, 1996. While the soundtrack did not include every song heard in the film, a notable exclusion were most tracks Erin (Demi Moore's character) danced to in the film, which, aside from "If I Was Your Girlfriend" by Prince, were all sung by Annie Lennox (whether as part of the Eurythmics or solo). While "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was featured on the disc, "Money Can't Buy It", "Cold" and "Little Bird" were left off, as was "Missionary Man", which was played during the end credits. Furthermore, it excluded the song "(Pussy, Pussy, Pussy) Whose Kitty Cat Are You?" by the Light Crust Doughboys which won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song.
Striptease was distributed by Sony and was finally released in the United States on June 28, 1996, after a June 23 premiere in New York City. It opened in Australia, France and Germany in August, and Argentina, Italy, Bolivia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Japan in September.
Nudity was heavily emphasized in advertisements. The Motion Picture Association of America raised concerns regarding a posters which it felt revealed too much of Moore's naked body. A Castle Rock employee argued: "There are racier perfume ads."
The previous year's film about nude dancers, Showgirls, was generally disliked, so filmmakers feared audiences would pre-judge Striptease on this basis. To avoid any association, advertisements were designed to make Striptease look more comedic than Showgirls, which was a drama. Besides the subject matter, Striptease and Showgirls did have two notable connections. The choreography in these films was by the same person, Marguerite Derricks. Both also featured performances by Rena Riffel, who plays a dancer in each. To promote the film, Moore appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and a Barbara Walters special. In both cases, she danced or otherwise exhibited her body.
Striptease was generally panned by film critics. It holds a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 68 reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times complimented some of the characters, but ultimately concluded the film failed because "all of the characters are hilarious except for Demi Moore's." He felt the drama surrounding the main character "throws a wetblanket over the rest of the party." Ebert also found the nudity not too sexy. Leonard Maltin was harsher, writing in his book that the film was too depressing, and "Not funny enough, or dramatic enough, or sexy enough, or bad enough, to qualify as entertainment in any category." Barbara Cramer concurred with Ebert that Moore's character was written too dramatically, compared to other characters. She said the film was predictable and would appeal mostly to "post-pubescent schoolboys or closet voyeurs." However, Cramer also cited Reynolds' "his best role in years," and that Rhames was "worth the price of admission." Brian D. Johnson of Maclean's, who thought Moore's acting was terrible, predicted that despite Moore's financial success, her career depended on the success of this film and the film was "tacky, pretentious-and boring." This critic described Striptease as displaying Moore's vanity. Dave Ansen of Newsweek, sharing Ebert's view on Moore's character, also claimed Striptease failed as a drama because it had no mystery, revealing the identity of its villains early. Moreover, the "damsel-in-distress angle generates zero tension." Daniel P. Franklin, in his book Politics and Film: The Political Culture of Film in the United States went so far as to call Striptease "the worst film ever made" and stated "The film pays homage to Moore's surgical breast enhancement". Nathan Rabin, reviewing the film for his series "My Year of Flops", described the film thus: "Moore's dour lead performance sabotages the film from the get-go. It's as if director Andrew Bergman told Moore she was acting in a serious drama about a struggling single mother...and then told everyone else in the cast that they were making a zany crime comedy filled with kooky characters, sleazy hustlers, dumbass opportunists, and outsized caricatures."
The film received seven Golden Raspberry nominations and won six. The only category the film lost was Worst Supporting Actor for Burt Reynolds, which went to Marlon Brando for The Island of Dr. Moreau. In winning the Worst Picture Razzie, Striptease defeated The Island of Dr. Moreau, Barb Wire, The Stupids, and Ed.
Striptease made $12,322,069 in its first weekend, falling behind The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy, Eraser starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which Moore voiced one of the main characters. Ultimately, Striptease made $33,109,743 in the United States, and domestically it was the 47th highest-grossing film of 1996. It made $113,309,743 internationally, having grossed £2,104,480 in the UK and ¥102,419,500 in Japan.
"That movie did better than almost anything I’ve been involved with," said Bergman. "All the subsidiary stuff was gigantic. People said, ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead seeing it,’ and suddenly when it’s available in a rental store, it’s ‘I’ll get Schindler’s List and Striptease. [laughs] It’s like when you’re a kid and you’re buying condoms at a drug store, but you buy 12 tubes of toothpaste, too."
In 1997, Striptease made news again when it was shown in a fourth-grade class in Chicago, Illinois. The teacher claimed the students chose the film, but he drew criticism since the film was risqué. (The violent 1996 film Scream was shown in the same school on the same day, causing further controversy.) In 2000 in Ireland, some viewers criticized the Radio Telefís Éireann for running Striptease. These viewers questioned the film's appropriateness and some considered it demeaning to women. However, the station felt it was not pornography and it was aired at night.
In 2003, Radioactive Films used a scene from Striptease featuring Moore nude in a video called Hollywood's Hottest. This raised a dispute as to whether use of the scene qualified as fair use. A lawsuit was launched as a consequence.