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."