Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Getting Down and Dirty With the Cast of "Wild Things"

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 23, 1998:  With the melancholy romanticism of Titanic still wafting through the air, one has to wonder: Is America ready for a sordid thriller like Wild Things? Does today's moviegoing public want more elaborate costumes, swooning music and lavish melodrama--or is a little sweat, sex and murderous intrigue just the thing to cleanse our collective palate? This weekend will be the litmus test as this twisted tale goes head-to-head with the seemingly unsinkable ship. Weekly Alibi recently had the opportunity to meet and chat with the cover-model cast (Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards) and their director (John McNaughton) about sex, murder and other healthy forms of recreation.

Wild Things is set in the fictional Florida yachting community of Blue Bay, where behind the opulent facades of the rich and powerful lurk scandalous tales as murky as the swamps of the Everglades. Kelly Van Ryan (hot newcomer Denise Richards of Starship Troopers), a seductive teenage beauty from Blue Bay's upper crust, has more than a passing schoolgirl crush on her sexy guidance counselor, Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon). When a tearful Kelly confesses to her mother that she has been raped by Sam Lombardo, the toney community is thrown into turmoil. Days later, a social outcast named Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) comes forward with a similar tale of sexual assault at the hands of Sam Lombardo. Following close behind is detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) who seems determined to get to the bottom of a case that's just a little too open-and-shut. With more twists and turns than a tornado-damaged roller coaster, Wild Things keeps its audience guessing with double and triple crosses and refuses to reveal the ultimate who and why until the final credits roll.

"What's motivating these characters is their reptilian brain--the very primitive instincts," analyzes director John McNaughton with obvious fondness for the backstabbing, money-grubbing rogues. McNaughton is best known for the gut-punch intensity of his first film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It took three years for that controversial $100,000 film to even see the light of day--which has since gone on to cult classic status. With its poster-friendly cast and big-budget promo push, Wild Things' producers are hoping for more than "cult" attention. This time, McNaughton admits, "I wanna spend a lot of money and have it seen."

Among the sights to be seen in Wild Things is a spicy ménage à trois involving Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon and Denise Richards. "It was obviously very sensitive for Denise, because she chose to do nudity," says Campbell, whose contract precluded shucking. "So we sat down, and we talked about our boundaries, and we talked about ways that I could make her comfortable. We did it in a very professional way. And then we drank some margaritas."

Though she remains clothed, Campbell's "swamp trash" character is a long way from sweet Julia Salinger on FOX-TV's "Party of Five"--a fact that attracted Campbell to the role. "I know what it's like not to fit in--I didn't fit in school at all. I was also pretty much the poorest kid in school. So I know what the experience is like and how you can be treated because of that."

Kevin Bacon, a veteran of more than 20 films, admits that this is a risky movie. "When I was reading it, I read the first 10 or 15 pages and I'm just like, 'Oh my God! This is the trashiest thing I've ever read!' ... A lot of the tone of the film--the sexuality--is really hammered in the script. ... You feel like you're reading a porno novel. And then the movie sort of took a turn for me as I was reading it. Then I read another 10 pages, and it took another turn. I started to find myself amused by it, turned on by it, surprised, shocked. I put it down after I finished and went, 'You know, I think I like this!'"

One of the film's biggest surprises involves a full frontal nude from Bacon--a shot that wasn't even intended to be in the film. According to Bacon, co-star Matt Dillon missed his mark and the camera caught a wider glimpse than it was supposed to. Dillon demurs: "He said that?" In regards to his own little Boogie Nights moment, Bacon is characteristically bemused. "First off, lemme say that I get about an eighth of a Boogie Nights. If I had known it would be in there, I would have ordered up the prosthetic."

With daily details of the president's sex life and the recent dual sexual harassment lawsuit brought against boxer Mike Tyson played out on the front pages of newspapers coast-to-coast, the story of Wild Things seems ripped from today's headlines. "It is very lurid," concedes McNaughton. "Part of the material we worked with was American trash culture--which I'm a big fan of. It's a lot of fun. That's why we all love it." For all its nasty backstabbing and lurid hanky panky, though, Wild Things treats itself with a campy air--how else do you explain the presence of Bill Murray as Matt Dillon's ambulance-chasing lawyer? "I don't think that it's a comedy," ponders Matt Dillon. "But it's got elements of black comedy. It's definitely a well thought-out script, but there's a lot of stuff that's just way over the top. I think if the film was in the hands of a director who tried to be real serious about it, it would have been the kiss of death." Dillon's final assessment says it all: "This isn't neo-realism; this is entertainment." ?

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

Page Back Last Issue Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Film & TV: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Weekly Alibi . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch