Set and filmed in South Florida, Wild Things revolves around two teenagers, Suzie (Neve Campbell) and Kelly (Denise Richards), who accuse their high school guidance counselor, Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), of rape. They hire a lawyer (Bill Murray) and a detective (Kevin Bacon) to investigate Lombardo. The events transform into an erotic film noir, as everyone betrays one another.
Richards described the film as “Scream meets Body Heat,” a cross between a whodunit and sleazy cinema. Written by Stephen Peters and directed by John McNaughton, the film is best known for its pool makeout session between Campbell and Richards; for a lurid threesome between Campbell, Richards, and Dillon; and for Bacon showing his, um, full bacon.
Twenty years ago, on March 20, 1998, the movie opened with a $9.6 million opening weekend and went on to gross a tepid $30,147,739. But the film proved popular enough to spawn three straight-to-DVD sequels (none of the original cast members, writer, or director were involved): Wild Things 2 (2004), Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005), and Wild Things: Foursome (2010). Here are 13 wild facts about the movie.
1. KEVIN BACON THOUGHT THE SCRIPT WAS "THE TRASHIEST PIECE OF CRAP" HE HAD EVER READ.
Kevin Bacon not only has a role in the film but is also one of its producers. “When I first picked up the script, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is the trashiest piece of crap I’ve ever read,’” he told Entertainment Weekly. “But every few pages, I kept discovering that it wasn’t what it seemed. Every few pages, there was another surprise.”
2. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. ALMOST PLAYED THE MATT DILLON ROLE.
Pre-Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. had been chosen to play the school counselor, but his drug issues endangered the production. “It was during his rehab, and he’d just been on Diane Sawyer’s show,” John McNaughton told Entertainment Weekly. “And to the people in Hollywood, that was a great career move. That made him hot.” The film’s insurance didn’t want to cover the actor, though, as Downey Jr. was too much of a liability.
3. DENISE RICHARDS DID NOT NAIL HER FIRST AUDITION.
McNaughton told Entertainment Weekly that at her first audition, Richards “was good, but not so good we had to hire her. But when she came back for a second audition, she was a lot better. She’d obviously thought about the character, which we took as a good sign that she could do the role. If worse came to worst, we knew she’d be beautiful.”
4. JOHN MCNAUGHTON PURPOSEFULLY CREATED BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS.
“Wild Things ... is a movie about really ugly people in terms of their interiors—there’s almost nobody of any moral value whatsoever in that picture,” McNaughton told Filmmaker Magazine. "So to make their surroundings ugly is telling the joke twice; I wanted it to be beautiful and lush and gorgeous, like the movie was a commercial selling you that world.”
5. BILL MURRAY MISSED OUT ON “THE BIG FUN.”
Bill Murray’s character, lawyer Ken Bowden, doesn’t get to engage in threesomes—or any kind of sex. “Although I’m twisted, I’m about the nicest guy in the thing,” Murray said in a behind-the-scenes segment on the film. “So I don’t get to have the big fun, and no sex at all. It’s like the guy who comes the next morning, to the party—‘What happened? Really? I miss everything.’ But I’m in on it. I’m the only one that gets out unscathed.”
6. THE CAST HAD TROUBLE KEEPING THE LIES STRAIGHT.
“To determine their motivation in each scene, the cast had to gather with the director, writers, and producers to establish the sequence of events,” Bacon said. “We’d sit in rehearsals trying to piece together what was going on in the script, whom we were lying to about what, and it’d just get so complicated we’d have to stop and rest.”
7. BACON’S FULL-FRONTAL NUDITY WAS ACCIDENTAL.
Bacon didn’t think anyone would see his nether regions, mainly because he thought Dillon was blocking the shot. But McNaughton told The Huffington Post how Bacon’s manhood made an unintentional cameo: “Kevin steps out of the shower and Matt throws him a towel and he catches it and it covers him and he did it in every take but one. It was a little miscue and it didn’t cover him.” The film’s editor, Elena Maganini, convinced McNaughton to use that take. “We called Kevin and he said, ‘How do I look?’ We said, ‘You look good Kevin.’ He goes, ‘No problem.’”
“I didn’t think any more about it so I was shocked, really shocked, when everyone kept on about it after the movie’s release,” Bacon told Total Film. “It really wasn’t that big a deal.” In 2015, Bacon shot a funny “Free the Bacon” PSA, encouraging more male actors to do full-frontal movie scenes.
8. BACON AND DILLON WERE SUPPOSED TO DO A SHOWER SCENE TOGETHER.
That already racy scene in which Dillon throws a nude Bacon a towel almost pushed the envelope further. Dillon was supposed to join Bacon in the shower and kiss him, but Dillon was against the idea. “Man, I was relieved when they got rid of that scene,” Dillon told Total Film. “Kevin seemed pretty attached to it through. One twist too many, man, one twist too many."
“I thought it was great because the whole movie is about secrets coming out, right?” Bacon also told Total Film. “As reveals go, that one was just huge [no pun intended]. Unfortunately, the financiers didn’t like the idea of men making out. They felt it went too far. They felt it wasn’t right.”
9. A DEAD BODY FLOATED INTO THE PRODUCTION.
While Campbell and Daphne Rubin-Vega filmed a scene near a swamp, a dead body rose to the surface. “All of a sudden one of the crew says ‘cut’—it was one of the lighting guys—and they said there was a dead body in the water,” Campbell recalled. “And so the cops came by and were like ‘You makin’ a movie?’ And we were like ‘Yeah.’ So they actually—typical Hollywood—held the body next to the dock so it wouldn’t float through the shot so we could finish the scene.”
10. RICHARDS’S BOOBS BECAME THE FOCAL POINT OF MEETINGS.
According to Richards’s memoir, Real Girl Next Door, storyboards of her breasts were passed between her lawyer, the producers, and the director to see what she would be okay with revealing. “At first it was decided that only one [breast] would be filmed, though they eventually filmed both,” The Daily Beast wrote.
11. NEVE CAMPBELL ENJOYED KISSING RICHARDS.
“It was fun,” Campbell told Rolling Stone about the film's most famous scene. “We just sorta went in and did it. Actually, we mixed margaritas and brought a bottle of wine in my trailer and got drunk first.” Campbell wrote in her journal about the experience: “Okay, I’m gonna make out with a girl for the first time in my life. It’s so interesting that a lot of times you learn things about yourself and have new experiences when shooting a scene, because they’re things you wouldn’t normally do in your life.”
But Richards found it all very weird. “At one point during Wild Things, we were shooting at night and I just sat there and thought, ‘It’s four o’clock in the morning. I’m half naked in a swimming pool. I’m making out with Neve Campbell. What am I doing here?”’ she told Entertainment Weekly. Whereas Richards went topless for the scene, Campbell decided to not show anything.
12. BACON THINKS THE MOVIE SHOULDN’T BE TAKEN SO SERIOUSLY.
Is the movie self-aware or is it being serious? “It’s fun for me now to sit back and watch an audience which really doesn’t know what to expect,” Bacon said. “It’s kind of neat, because people are not quite sure what they’re supposed to be thinking and feeling. They kind of go, ‘Am I allowed to laugh at this at all? Or is this just like so bad? Are they serious?’ The other side of that is that it creates certain inherent problems in marketing the picture. I mean, I almost want to put a disclaimer on the poster that says, ‘We don’t take this too seriously, so we hope that you don’t either.'"
13. MCNAUGHTON WANTED TO MAKE A SEQUEL.
In 2013, McNaughton said he wanted to film a sequel called Wild Child Things, focusing on a child Suzie could’ve had. “Do you know the Amanda Knox case? It’s something like that,” he told Hollywood.com. “Something that’s like the child of Suzie Toller. She claimed that Matt Dillon’s [character] had raped her a long time ago and maybe there is a child and maybe Bill Murray’s character had a child and they’re exchange students and things get out of hand.” Though three straight-to-DVD sequels have been made, McNaughton has not been involved in any of those.