Parts of the movie were filmed on the South Park Blocks in Portland, Oregon. This film was directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child's Play), and written by Tom Engelman and Kevin Falls (Shark).
Peter Derns (Timothy Hutton) is an executive for a cookie company. He has just been released from a clinic after being treated for paranoia and he is still in a shaky emotional state. On his first day back at work, he becomes further upset when he walks into a marketing meeting to make a new product presentation without knowing that his company has been taken over by a major food conglomerate. The company's new owners are looking to make cutbacks and Peter's whole career is riding on his new-product introduction. Peter's ruthless boss and supervisor, Charlene (Faye Dunaway), whose job is also at risk, wants a complete report by Peter on her desk no later than noon on the following day. When Peter's male personal assistant, Lance, takes off, he frets that he will never make the deadline. But to Peter's good fortune, the company assigns him a temp worker, the brunette, seductive-looking Kris Bolin (Lara Flynn Boyle).
Kris soon proves herself to Peter by solving two marketing problems with Peter's new product in short order over the next few days. Peter and Kris soon bond over their lunch breaks where Kris tells Peter about herself: she has an office-skills degree from Stanford and has a husband and young daughter. Kris, being ruthlessly efficient, brilliant and unflaggingly loyal to Peter, hopes to use her skills to become his permanent secretary. Despite Kris's possessive attitude, Peter cannot seem to do without her, nor can the rest of the office. Not only does Kris help him deliver his report to Charlene on time, she passes on credit to him for her own ideas.
However, soon various people around the office meet with unfortunate "accidents," beginning when Peter's assistant, Lance, returns the following week and, while attempting to fix a paper shredder during his first day back, is maimed when his right hand gets stuck and mutilated, forcing him to take permanent leave. Peter starts to note the deaths of some of his rivals for advancement in the company, such as Hartsell (Oliver Platt), who is found dead in his stalled car on a busy expressway after being stung by a wasp. Another few days later, Jasser (Dwight Schultz) is found in his office after hanging himself in an apparent suicide. Peter becomes to suspect that Kris is responsible for these deaths, but he cannot prove it or get anyone to listen to him due to his recovering mental state. Nevertheless, the deaths of the executives lay the groundwork for Peter's own unearned promotions.
Meanwhile, Peter is determined to win back his estranged wife (Maura Tierney), and begins to spurn all of Kris's advances towards him. Peter, starting to distrust Kris, refuses her advances for a romantic relationship, as well as a professional partnership, and even just a simple friendship. Soon things for Peter begin to go wrong. A marketing test for Peter's new cookie product is horribly sabotaged when broken glass is added to the batter of the cookies, injuring random people who test the new product out. Peter becomes more convinced that Kris is behind the mayhem, but he still cannot get anyone to listen to him because everyone around him writes off his claims as more paranoia.
Soon, Peter's paranoia begins to work against him as he starts to suspect an old friend (Steven Weber), at a rival cookie company, of being behind the events. Peter also begins to suspect Charlene herself is trying to destroy his career to protect her own. Peter begins looking into Kris's past and learns that at her last temp job at a local bank, her boss, whom she may have had an affair with, died mysteriously. Peter also learns that Kris never went to Stanford, nor does she have any husband or child. Peter confronts Kris about what she may be doing behind the scenes, but she naturally denies doing anything wrong. The very next day, Peter is shunned from his job after someone frames him for leaking company information to a rival company. However, Kris comes to his aid by accepting responsibility for the "computer error", which earns Peter's promotion to vice president and Kris's promotion to marketing executive.
By the climax of the film, Peter and Kris are sent to the company's bakery on a weekend retreat, where the car in which they are both riding nearly runs off the road after someone tampers with the brakes. After checking into their hotel for the night (in separate rooms), Peter gets a message from Charlene about an emergency at the company's bakery. Upon going there, he finds a dead security guard, killed by a letter opener knife that Kris had earlier given him. Kris is also present at the bakery, but appears to be suffering from a mild concussion due to a supposed blow to her head. He enters the bakery grounds office and attempts to call for an ambulance, but someone hits him from behind and tries to finish him off, only for someone else to tackle his attacker.
In his disoriented state, Peter wanders out of the office to see Kris struggling with Charlene in a brutal fight along a catwalk. Yet it is nearly impossible to tell from Peter's point-of-view if Kris is trying to kill Charlene, or if Charlene is trying to kill Kris. Peter intervenes in the fight and Charlene falls from a plank and is left hanging from a railing. He attempts to pull her up but she slips from his grasp and falls to her death, but not before saying "The picture".
Months later, Peter works on rebuilding his relationship with his family, and is made president of the company and privately thanks Kris for saving his life. However, as he settles into Charlene's office, he glances at an open box containing some of her stuff that is still being cleared out, and spots four exact photos of Kris's husband and child together, each in exactly the same frame that she uses. After Charlene's secretary explains that they were a cheap gift from her to Charlene, and that the photos just came with the frames, Peter suddenly realizes what Charlene meant by her last words.
Peter theorizes that Charlene did indeed look into his earlier claims about Kris' lies and discovered that she had not only lied about her educational background, but also about having been married, having no doubt seen the photo she used. Knowing she would be fired, Kris orchestrated the incident at the bakery with the intent to kill Charlene, and possibly Peter as well.
Peter confronts Kris with this revelation, but she yet again denies everything and states that the photo is a means for single office women like her to discourage male co-workers from hitting on them. (Note: throughout the entire film, whenever Kris is caught in a lie about her past or work, she makes up a whole new lie on the spur of the moment to replace or patch up the old lie). Peter, however, refuses to believe her anymore. He is now aware that Kris is a master manipulator and sociopath, but also aware that he will never be able to prove that Kris was responsible for all the deaths and incidents at the company nor will she ever admit to any wrongdoing. Peter decides to remove Kris the old fashioned way: he fires Kris and orders her detained until the police can escort her out.Timothy Hutton as Peter Derns
Lara Flynn Boyle as Kris Bolin
Dwight Schultz as Jasser
Oliver Platt as Hartsell
Steven Weber as Montroe
Faye Dunaway as Charlene Towne
Principal photography began on April 9, 1992. Filming took place in & around Portland, Oregon. Another location that was used for the sequence where Peter & Kris are driving on the coast was filmed at North Coast, Oregon. Production officially wrapped on June 17, 1992.
Tim Hutton later recalled:
There were a lot of differences of opinion. Not with the cast, but with everybody else, in terms of what kind of movie was being made. The script read like a kind of interesting sort of character study of what happens to a man’s life when his family falls apart and he’s not happy with his job, and then this temp ends up coming in and sort of grabbing this person at their most vulnerable moment and taking over their life. But what happened as we were filming was that there was a lot of discussion, I think on the studio level, that a movie that had come out the year before, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle... did very well, and the powers that be felt that The Temp should be more in tone with that movie. And it’s a funny movie, because it read really well on the page, but somehow the translation… I think it tried to be a movie that was different from what I think the writer intended. But I still had a good time on it, and it was great to work with Faye Dunaway.
The film was released on February 13, 1993 in 1,438 theatres & made $2.8 million. It was considered a box-office bomb, making $6.4 million, way under its $15 million budget.
The Temp received negative reviews from critics, where it currently holds a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews. Faye Dunaway won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.