I Can Make You Love Me, also known as Stalking Laura, is an American made-for-television film starring Richard Thomas and Brooke Shields. The film is based on the real-life story of American mass murderer Richard Farley, a former employee of ESL Incorporated whose romantic obsession and subsequent stalking of co-worker Laura Black culminated in the mass murder of several co-workers at ESL's headquarters in California, resulting in the first anti-stalking laws to be enacted in the United States. The first half of the film covers the events of the stalking, while the second half deals with Farley's rampage on the ESL offices.
Richard Thomas stars as Richard Farley alongside Brooke Shields, who portrayed Laura Black.
For the purposes of the film and the victims of the incident, the fictional computer company Kensitron Electronics International (K.E.I.) was used to portray the events at ESL Incorporated.
The film opens up on Laura Black (Brooke Shields), a young and ambitious intern from Virginia who is preparing to say farewell to her family after having accepted a job at Kensitron Electronics International (K.E.I.) in Silicon Valley,California. After receiving her well-wishes, Laura moves out to California where she receives a tour of her new workplace at the K.E.I. offices. During her tour with future co-worker Chris (William Allen Young), Laura meets long-time K.E.I. employee Richard Farley (Richard Thomas), who is immediately infatuated with Laura's beauty. The three go out to lunch, where Richard takes a liking to Laura, and afterwards invites her to a local tractor pull, but she politely declines the offer. Looking for a home, she later visits an apartment in Sunnyvale, and is accepted as a new roommate by the current tenant.
On her first day at the office, Laura gets settled in her new work station, but is surprised to find that Richard is there waiting for her. He offers her fresh-baked blueberry bread to show his affections before leaving. In the days that follow, Laura enrolls in a local aerobics class, where Richard watches her intently as she removes her top to show off her aerobics uniform. When class ends, he asks her out to a concert and then dinner, but again, she politely turns him down. He then says that they can't have a relationship if she keeps turning him down. Laura is quick to correct him, saying that their relationship is strictly professional.
In spite of this, Richard continues to make advances on Laura, seemingly convinced that he and Laura are in fact in a romantic relationship. At the K.E.I. softball game, Laura once again denies that their relationship extends beyond their workplace, but Richard stays to watch as she plays the softball game. During the game, however, Laura's new friend Glenda Moritz (Donna Thomason) takes note of Richard's infatuation with her, though Laura says she can handle him. When they start laughing over his advances, he takes this as a deeply personal insult.
Richard continues to pursue Laura. Through an excuse of wanting to present a birthday for Laura, he is allowed by a coworker to see her personal dossier, from which he learns of her birthday and address. One day, he shows up at her apartment and presents her with a gift. She finds that it is an RC bulldozer, and he says "if you're going to act like a child I'm going to have to treat you like a child". Laura reluctantly accepts the gift while hiding her evident resentment at his frequent harassment. That night at dinner, her roommate shows concern over the situation and tells her she should confront Management about Richard, but Laura insists that she can handle him, saying that if she did otherwise, she would be his victim.
As retaliation for her repeated refusals to go out with him, Farley slashes Laura's tires at home. Laura calls the police about the incident, and suspects Farley as the culprit. He later tells her he feels awful about what happens. She sarcastically replies "I bet you do", he then confronts her on her suspicions, warning her that if she sends any cops around him, it will mean trouble. Laura goes to KEI's management and files a formal complaint, but they prove to be of little help to her, believing that Farley liked her because she smiles at him. However, management instructs Farley to leave her alone. Eventually, Richard enrolls in the same aerobics class as Laura, much to her frustration, explaining that management said to stay away from her at work, but cannot control him outside of work. While working on a new closet for his landlady and co-worker Nancy Hammond (Barbara Houston), Richard is confronted by Nancy, who says very firmly that Laura is not interested in him. Richard persists however and photographs Laura from the yard in front of her house, and seemingly shows up everywhere she goes. With the harassment increasing, Laura and her roommate move away to a new apartment.
In spite of the move, Richard breaks into Laura's office and discovers her new address, as well as her family records. He confronts her at the offices and threatens to go after her sisters if she does not learn to accept that she "is meant for him". Her horror only worsens at Christmas when Laura goes home to Virginia to be with her family, and receives a gift from Richard. It is a doctored photograph of the two of them together on "their summer vacation". Grief-stricken, Laura confesses the situation to her family, who insist that they help her get out of this before it boils over. Laura refuses their help, insisting that she loves her job and will not let Farley intimidate her. However, she files a second complaint to K.E.I.'s management, only to find herself at square one once again.
At a restaurant, Laura is in the women's washroom when Farley barges in and angrily accuses Laura of thinking he is a joke. She corrects him, he then angrily says "don't talk down to me" and violently smashes the bathroom mirror and threatens her for not accepting his advances. He asks her if she is resisting his advances because she wants to "win", she then corrects him again, saying she merely wants him to leave her alone. Laura reports the incident, and the work force managers confront Farley on his actions, who insist that his frequent harassment is illegal. Unfazed, Richard declares that he will kill anyone who attempts to interfere with his "private relationships", and is fired as a result of this death threat. Angered at the loss of his job, Farley seriously considers the fulfillment of his previous threats.
In the months that follow, Richard gets a new job at a rival company, but the harassment continues on an irregular basis. Laura starts dating Sam Waters (Scott Bryce), who fears for Laura's safety. To protect her, he teaches her how to use a gun for self-defense, and promises to take it back if she finds herself uncomfortable with the weapon. That night, Richard breaks into her garage and leaves a note on her windshield. Laura confronts him and he casually brushes it off with yet another advance. Laura almost draws the gun from behind her back, but ultimately relents. At work, Laura receives a major promotion but can't get it because of improper clearance. Thinking it to be because of Richard's harassment, Chris suggests that Laura get a restraining order against Richard. Laura follows through and Farley receives the order from the court.
Enraged at this turn of events, Farley decides it is time to get even with Laura. He sells his pickup to a co-worker and purchases an RV, as well as several shotguns and over 2000 rounds of ammunition. At work, Laura is anxious about her upcoming court appearance to make the restraining order against Farley permanent. That afternoon, Farley drives up in front of the K.E.I. offices in his RV, and loads up several shotguns and revolvers with ammunition, as well as several explosives. Upon exiting the RV, Farley advances on the building, and shoots one of his co-workers with a shotgun. He then blasts his way through the lobby firing at random employees, who run for cover and call the police.
Farley advances up the stairwell where he shoots two unsuspecting employees, and then blasts his way into the secure offices. Panic ensues as all personnel flee the building and take cover in their offices, with several more being gunned down by Farley. Among Richard's victims is Glenda, who pleads for her life as Farley blasts her through an office window, killing her. Hearing the gunshots, Laura calls for security when Richard bursts into her office and takes aim. Laura ducks for cover but is shot in the left shoulder, and collapses to the floor unconscious. Farley continues his rampage, blasting at employees, computers, and offices as he holes himself up inside the building.
The police and several SWAT units arrive and evacuate the building, and surround the compound with snipers and riflemen. The police soon receive a positive identification on Farley, and discover his evident obsession with Laura, who is still trapped in the building with dozens of hostages. Hostage negotiator Lt. Grijalva (Richard Yniguez) soon arrives on the scene to negotiate with Farley while the police keep an eye on the building. Meanwhile, Laura makes her way through the ransacked offices, finding the bodies of several of her co-workers as she tries to control the blood loss in her shoulder. She finds two of her surviving co-workers, who nurse her wounds while taking cover from Farley. Meanwhile, Grijalva contacts Richard and proceeds to negotiate a hopeful surrender, while also dissuading him from shooting any more employees. Richard remains stubborn, however, and attempts to make out Laura as the guilty party for refusing to go out with him, and insists that she was the one messing with him. Determined to escape, Laura flees the building despite protests from her two friends, who remain behind taking cover. Laura narrowly avoids Farley's watch as she escapes outside. Laura is rushed to a hospital for surgery, all the while blaming herself for the unfolding horror.
Farley continues to hole himself up inside the building, at one point executing one of his surviving victims and unknowingly shooting Chris, who was hiding in the washrooms. However, Nancy survives the rampage and Richard allows her to leave unharmed. Grijalva keeps Richard calm by advising that all SWAT teams retreat from the building perimeter, and distracts Farley as they go in to evacuate the remaining survivors. Farley, exhausted and thinking that he will die, demands a sandwich and a diet cola from Togo's while he considers surrendering. The police agree to provide him with the food if he ditches some of his weapons through a window, all the while keeping sniper teams on watch.
Hours later, the police produce the food and Farley is given the all-clear to ditch his weapons, but is soon informed that they still don't have the means to get the food to him. Grijalva suggests that he surrender and have the food outside. Finally Farley, overcome with exhaustion and dehydration, agrees to surrender to the police. At the hospital, Laura receives life-saving surgery and is placed in the intensive-care unit, where she is reunited with her roommate.
At the K.E.I. offices the SWAT team, not taking any chances, converge on the main lobby as they await Farley. Richard surrenders unarmed, and is swiftly apprehended by the police, seemingly unconcerned by the carnage he has caused. The SWAT team evacuates the last remaining hostages and rescue the injured Chris, who glares at Richard as he is taken to an ambulance. Lt. Grijalva arrives with Richard's food, at which time Richard asks if Laura will remember all this. Evidently disgusted with Richard's cruelty, Grijalva silently leaves the food in the car as the police arrest Farley and escort him to prison.
The film ends with an epilogue on the events following the shooting:
Laura Black recovered partial use of her shoulder and continued to work for the same company (K.E.I.'s real-life counterpart, ESL Incorporated, was sold to Northrop Grumman Corporation in 2002).
In the wake of this case, as well as several high-profile stalking cases during the 1980s, California became the first U.S. state in the nation to enact anti-stalking laws. All other U.S. states have since followed suit.
- Richard Thomas as Richard Farley
- Brooke Shields as Laura Black
- Viveka Davis as Mary Ann, Laura's roommate.
- William Allen Young as Chris, Laura's section manager at K.E.I.
- Richard Yniguez as Lt. Grijalva, hostage negotiator.
- Scott Bryce as Sam Waters, Laura's boyfriend.
- T. Max Graham as Captain Olson, Police Captain.
- Tim Snay as Lt. Bannister, SWAT Officer.
- Kevin Brief as Lt. Mark Shegan, Police Officer.
- Dick Mueller as Tom Black.
- Merle Moores as Donna Black.
- Caroline Vinciguerra as Sarah Black.
- Donna Thomason as Glenda Moritz, Laura's co-worker.
- Hollis McCarthy as Phyllis, Laura's co-worker.
- Barbara Houston as Nancy Hammond, Richard's co-worker and landlord.