25 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Wild Things’ on Its 25th Anniversary
The 1998 movie Wild Things bills itself as a neo-noir erotic thriller, but when it comes down to it, this sleazy, sweaty Florida romp is so much more. It drips with melodrama, has some genuine comedy and even comes with a satirical bite as it directly comments on good old-fashioned classism. It’s arguably the sleaziest, trashiest whodunit to come out of the 1990s, and for what it is, it’s the best of its kind.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie that just might have the most plot twists in modern cinematic history, we’ve rounded up some nuggets of information on the making and the legacy of the film where we all saw Kevin Bacon hang dong...
The Opening Credits Sequence Was Going to Be Wildly Different
In the film’s opening credits, we see a man (presumably Matt Dillon’s character, Sam Lombardo) on his airboat in the Everglades with shots of alligators and birdlife before the camera cuts and pans over Blue Bay, Miami, where the movie takes place. In one of the original script drafts, however, the opening would’ve had none of that and instead be filled with cuts containing sex, violence, and for some reason, sharks.
The Throwing Glass Scene Was Harder to Film Than Expected
During a YouTube interview, Denise Richards talked about the courtroom scene where her character, Kelly, throws a glass at Neve Campbell’s character, Suzie, and how nervous everyone was to shoot it. According to the actress, the crew put up plexiglass to protect the camera operators on set, and Richards herself was nervous because she’s “a leftie” and was worried that her aim would be way off. She joked that everyone was shocked when she nailed the throw but admitted that her accuracy was probably the result of “pure fear and nervousness.”
Bill Murray Brought Much of the Comedy to the Movie
Both Bacon and Campbell have said that Murray’s performance was essential to the movie because he basically told the audience that it was okay to laugh. His performance as sleazeball lawyer Ken Bowden was very Bill Murray.
Robert Downey Jr. Was Going to Star
The filmmakers wanted Downey Jr. to play the part that ultimately went to Dillon, partly because of Downey Jr.’s drug abuse back then. “It was during his rehab, and he’d just been on Diane Sawyer’s show,” director John McNaughton told Entertainment Weekly. “And to the people in Hollywood, that was a great career move. That made him hot.” But due to insurance worries, it was decided that Downey Jr. would ultimately be too great a liability.
Bacon’ s Junk Ended Up on Film By Accident
McNaughton told Huffington Post that Bacon’s full-frontal shot was a miscue. Apparently, they shot the scene where Dillon’s character throws him a towel multiple times, and Bacon managed to catch it and cover himself every time, except that once. The editor convinced them to use the shot — arguing that it was only fair to add some male nudity to a movie filled with boob shots — and Bacon agreed.
The Movie Came Close to Being Way More Progressive
Bacon told Total Film there was originally one more twist that would’ve been revealed during his naked shower scene. Apparently, Dillon was supposed to get in the shower with him, revealing that the two of them were also boinking each other. “I thought it was great because the whole movie is about secrets coming out, right?” Bacon explained. “As reveals go, that one was just huge. Unfortunately, the financiers didn’t like the idea of men making out. They felt it went too far. They felt it wasn’t right.” Boo to that.
The Credit Scenes Were Originally Going to Play Out Backward
When the credits start rolling, the movie serves a couple of scenes providing more in-depth explanations of how Suzie and everyone else concocted their plans. Bacon revealed during a press interview that originally, that sequence was going to play backward, starting at the end and ending with the first scene. However, it made the reveal too complicated, so they switched it around.
The Foreshadowing in One of Campbell’s Scenes
When the detectives visit Suzie after she phoned them about a statement, she’s reading a copy of Death on the Installment Plan, a novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. The book mirrors Suzie’s character and her contempt for others and touches on themes like lust and greed. It also shows that Suzie’s far more clever than others believe.
McNaughton Sees ‘ Wild Things’ As His Most Political Film
During an interview with The Flashback Files, the director said that it wasn’t only his most commercial film but also his most political feature. He explained that the movie was about class bias: “Who wins? The girl from the trailer park! She’s all alone on the ninety-foot sailboat out on the Caribbean. Pretty much everyone else is dead. That was the nineties, with the concentration of wealth. But the girl from the trailer park takes’m all down.”
That Famous Champagne Bottle Was Originally Going to Be Something Else
The Film Location Was Just As Wild As the Movie
Wild Things was filmed during the summer months in the south of Florida, and it wasn't the easiest production. One time, a tornado came close to crushing a bunch of film trailers. Another time, while the cast and crew were filming in the Everglades, an actual dead body floated into view, causing a halt in production and the cops to be called in.
Campbell Did the Movie to Avoid Getting Typecast
McNaughton Didn’t Think the Story Was Too Far-Fetched
In an interview with Money Into Light, the director said that after visiting Florida, he totally bought into the wild and twisty plot. “The producer, Peter Guber, sent us off to Florida, where none of us had spent much time, and we spent 10 days there getting shepherded around to places and meeting people who were like people in the story,” McNaughton said. “When I read the script, I thought, ‘As crazy as it is, I do believe it could happen in the world that we live in.’ Once I believe that a story can happen in the real world, then I know how to direct it.”
The Movie Has Some Wildly Funny Quotes
It was 1998, and folks were probably too busy quoting The Big Lebowski, but in an alternate universe, Wild Things was surely quoted at length, too, because the movie has some hilarious evergreen lines. There’s the one about asking the Pope to take a piss test, phrases like “chicken licker” and that time the rich entitled Sandra Van Ryan, who thinks she owns the town, hilariously and so very inappropriately yelled, “My daughter does not get raped in Blue Bay!” There’s also Kelly Van Ryan’s delusional line at the very end of this scene:
Murray Won an Award for His Role
Richards and Campbell Were Each Other’s Firsts
In Richards’ memoir, Real Girl Next Door, she wrote about the infamous swimming pool kiss between her and Campbell. “Neve and I went into her trailer and shared a pitcher of margaritas before we did the scene,” Richards revealed. “Neither of us had ever kissed another girl. Everyone has a first time.”
There Were Some Erotic Scenes Between Sam and Barbara in an Original Draft
While we never see Sam Lombardo and his rich girlfriend Barbara Baxter (Jennifer Taylor) get it on in the movie, one of the original drafts had them wildly smash twice.
Suzie Had Some Nudity in the Script
Even though the script stated that Suzie shows her breasts during the threesome scene, Campbell had a no-nudity clause in her contract and chose to exercise it.
The Movie Spawned Three Sequels
Wild Things 2 (2004), Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005) and Wild Things: Foursome (2010) were all direct-to-video releases. They take place in Blue Bay as well and feature recycled plots from the original movie.
The Score Was Nominated for a Saturn Award
Composer George S. Clinton was nominated in 1999 for his work on the movie’s scoring. Clinton has done film scores for Mortal Kombat (1996) and the 1997 sequel, all three Austin Powers movies, as well as many of McNaughton’s other projects.
‘ Wild Things’ Did Better in Europe Than the U.S.
McNaughton explained that part of it was due to being sunk by the unstoppable box office juggernaut that was Titanic. However, Wild Things was number one in France, Italy and Spain while doing pretty well in the rest of the world too.
There Were Legal Dealings Involving Richards’ Breasts
In her memoir, the actress said that there were storyboards featuring her breasts going around between the lawyers and producers to figure out how much nudity should be shown. Initially, they were going to only show one boob, but it was ultimately decided to give both equal screen time instead.
Richards and Campbell Almost Teamed Up With McNaughton for Another Thriller
Back in 2006, it was announced that McNaughton and Wild Things screenwriter Stephen Peters were doing a new project called Backstabbers, with both Richards and Campbell in talks to feature at the time. Per Variety, the story would’ve been “a sexy caper about a rich New York man who masterminds his wife’s kidnapping, unaware that his mistress and bodyguard are going to double-cross him.” There’s been no word on the project ever since.
The Raccoon Shot
As The Ringer pointed out, a hilarious bit happens half an hour into the movie. As Lombardo gets pummeled by rich heiress Sandra Van Ryan’s toy boy after he got run off the road, there’s a shot that lingers on a raccoon watching the commotion from a tree. It feels wildly out of place since the movie’s all about those gator shots, but the randomness makes it so damn funny.
McNaughton Had One Bonkers Idea for a Sequel
McNaughton said back in 2013 that he was working with original screenwriter Stephen Peters on Wild Child Things, a sequel to the original that would’ve taken inspiration from the Amanda Knox case. According to the director, it would feature Suzie’s child (that she apparently had with Sam Lombardo) and Murray’s kid as two exchange students getting involved with some shady shenanigans before things “get out of hand.”
More sleazy trash from McNaughton? Yes, please.