In 1998, erotic thrillers were still hot following the success of Basic Instinct. Richards had just bug-zapped her way into our hearts in Starship Troopers. Campbell had Screamed twice and wanted to branch out, and Dillon and Kevin Bacon were already well established stars. People clamored to see the film, which recouped almost half its budget on opening weekend, and ultimately grossed over $55 million.
In order to properly celebrate this cinematic revelation, we’ll need to get specific, so this is your SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t seen the film, close your browser and get to it. We’ll wait. For the rest of you, it’s time to learn what’s up with the cast of Wild Things.
16 Matt Dillon (Sam Lombardo)
“This is a celebration Suzie, not a suicide pact.”
Lombardo is a lot of things: a boat man, a ladies man, and a concerned Guidance Counselor. Sure, maybe he accidentally overstepped a few teacher/student boundaries, but he’s innocent, goddamnit! Of course, he’s not really innocent, but he is oblivious to the plan’s full scope. He wants to dive into Sandra Van Ryan’s deep pockets, but he doesn’t want anyone to die for it. Then again, he gets over Kelly’s death right quick.
Equal parts handsome, smarmy, stupid, and conniving, Matt Dillon is the perfect Sam. His line readings are spot on. Lombardo is just one of many signature Matt Dillon roles on a resume that includes The Outsiders, The Flamingo Kid, Singles, and Drugstore Cowboy. In Wayward Pines, Dillon played a Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of two colleagues. Come 2018, he’ll embody a brilliant serial killer in Lars Von Trier's The House That Jack Built. Earlier this year, he had a supporting role alongside feisty seniors Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in Going in Style.
15 Bill Murray (Ken Bowden)
Bill Murray clearly has the time of his life playing the original Saul Goodman. Ken is the only public defender willing to represent an accused statutory rapist. He’s rewarded with enough cash from the Van Ryan settlement to afford a new car, designer suit, and an invite to The Club. We later learn that Ken is working for Suzie, hence his confidence about going up against the Van Ryans.
Murray was already a huge star before Wild Things, but he was starting to get typecast as a scheister. He didn’t do too much afterward except become an indie superstar in Lost in Translation and the Wes Anderson oeuvre. In real life, Murray reportedly crashes parties, guest bartends, and dispenses marriage advice like a fairy godfather. Like Ken, Murray doesn’t really even need to work anymore, so he gets to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants. In recent years, he’s played Balloo in The Jungle Book, Mayor Gunderson on Parks and Rec, and a supernatural skeptic in the Ghostbusters reboot.
14 Cory Pendergast (Jimmy Leach)
“All right! I could definitely party on one of those!”
Class clown Jimmy Leach is also Mr. Lombardo’s star sailing pupil, trading boat labor for free lessons. After Sam’s rape accusation, Jimmy is the only student who doesn’t drop the class. Sam gives Jimmy lifts and dispenses bullshit advice about how to work his way through college and become “a real boat man”. Jimmy is so bummed about what happens to Mr. Lombardo that he stops shaving and starts wearing suits.
Following Wild Things, Pendergast appeared briefly in There’s Something About Mary (also featuring Dillon). In 1999, he reunited with fellow Floridian, Toi Svane Stepp (Nicole) and starred alongside Dee Wallace and Joyce DeWitt in Brandon Fowler’s coming-of-age story, 18. Unfortunately, the film’s negative mysteriously vanished, preventing its completion. Pendergast mostly laid low after that until 2007, when he starred as a small-town con man in the low budget comedy, Trust Me. He now lends his expressive face to commercial work for the likes of Netflix, National Car Rental, and Macy’s.
13 Dennis Neal (Art Maddox)
“It's a Barracuda. If you weren't so busy chasing booty at the yacht club, you could have caught one for yourself.”
Art is both “a fellow guidance counselor” at Blue Bay High School and Sam’s only friend apart from Jimmy. Sometimes, the pals hang at the yacht club, but for the most part, Art is Sam’s rock. He’s the kind of friend who will quit razzing you about your romantic life the second you’re accused of rape. After that, he’ll fully support you, take care of your lizards, and provide crucial exposition about the Van Ryans.
Since Wild Things, Neal has kept busy. He logs a couple of credits a year, mostly TV guest spots (Arli$$, Even Stevens, and Moesha). That’s pretty much what he was doing before Wild Things too. But in August, he’ll get a crack at a lead role in HeartBreak, a film about a washed-up professional billiard champion who mentors a Korean woman on her quest to become the billiard world champion and save her son’s life. Sounds...interesting.
12 Kevin Bacon (Ray Duquette)
“The thing about it is, threesomes so rarely work out.”
Ray is arguably the chumpiest of the chumps in the quartet of deception at the center of Wild Things. A dirty cop from the Department of Sex Crimes, Ray seems hell bent on nailing Lombardo. In reality, Suzie convinces Sam to rope in Ray, under the guise that Sam will cut out the girls and split the money two ways. Of course, Suzie has no intention of sharing with Ray, or anyone else that screwed her over. He never should have killed that kid out in the Glades.
Kevin Bacon is so ubiquitous, you can link him to any Hollywood actor in six moves or less (hence the infamous Six Degrees of Bacon rule). He’s made a million more things since the advent of this internet standard, including three seasons of the crime thriller, The Following. He currently sizzles on Jill Soloway’s Amazon series I Love Dick with Katherine Hahn, and soon, he’ll appear in Story of a Girl, a coming of age drama directed by his wife, Kyra Sedgwick.
11 Daphne Rubin-Vega (Gloria Perez)
“You want my gut, there it is. I think she’s acting.”
Poor Perez. As a Sex Crimes detective, and Ray’s partner, she gets to be perpetually wary, but doesn’t get any real information until it’s too late to do anything about it. Daphne Rubin-Vega is overqualified for this underdeveloped role, which mostly involves placating Ray’s “theories”. She's the picture of professionalism until Ray sends her to spy on Sam, who invites her into his hotel room, where they share an out-of-the-blue flirtation and almost kiss.
The Panamanian born Rubin-Vega played a key role in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating. Before that, she had a small part in Flawless, with PSH and Robert De Niro. More recently, she had a recurring role on season two of Smash as Eileen Rand's (Anjelica Huston) publicist. You can catch her next with Kevin Corrigan in The Holdouts, a TV comedy movie about New Yorkers who can no longer afford to live in the Big Apple.
10 Carrie Snodgress (Ruby)
“That’s all there is to say about Ray Duquette.”
Ruby runs Smilin’ Jack’s Fish Camp, a bait shop and gator wrastlin’ exhibition. She’s Walter’s mother and Suzie’s surrogate grandmother. She’s also an exposition machine with an ever-present cigarette and a knack for answering the right questions before they’re even asked. She’s extremely important because at the end, she gives Gloria pretty much all the juicy info she needs to bust the case wide open. As it turns out, Suzie has motive up the wazoo to want everyone dead.
Before Wild Things, Snodgress was nominated for an Oscar for her role as the titular housewife in Diary of a Mad Housewife. Over the years, she stayed busy with TV work on shows like The X Files, Murder She Wrote, In the Heat of the Night, ER, and Touched by an Angel. She died in 2004 at the age of 58. Her final credits were a guest spot on The West Wing and a role in Iron Jawed Angels, a TV movie about Suffragettes.
9 Marc Macaulay (Walter)
“That girl could do just about anything she put her mind to.”
Walter is a slow burn character. We meet him outside Smilin’ Jack’s Fish Camp, the bait shop by Suzie’s trailer park. He’s usually engaged in some form of alligator slapstick. We later learn that he’s Ruby’s son, and he got his gator-wrastlin’ proclivities as a result of Army P.T.S.D. He stays mum until the film’s end, when he inadvertently tips Gloria off to Suzie’s conniving brilliance. “Old lady had her tested once. They said her IQ was way up there, round two hundred or some such shit.”
Marc Macaulay has 140 acting credits to his name, so you’ve likely seen him somewhere since Wild Things. He even played different characters in two of the film’s straight-to-video sequels. He also had small parts in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Monster, Dexter, The Punisher (2004), 12 Years a Slave, and a recurring role as Agent Harris on Burn Notice. Most recently, he was the lead in a film called Manhattan Cop.
8 Robert Wagner (Tom Baxter)
“I don't think you understand, Sandy. Your little princess here committed perjury. It will be all I can do to keep her f****** little ass out of jail.”
Baxter is Sandra Van Ryan’s sharp-dressed lawyer and father to Sam’s only adult girlfriend, Barbara. He confronts Sam at The Club with a terrific speech: “Maybe you didn't hear me, Lombardo. You're finished in Blue Bay. And if I find you around my daughter again, you'll be finished, period. Get the f*** out of here". Wagner became a legend from his role as Jonathan Hart on the early 1980's mystery series, Hart to Hart. He subsequently made a career of playing off that image, as Number Two in the Austin Powers movies, and a celebrity head on Futurama. He also had a regular role on NCIS.
Soon, he’ll play the important-sounding Evil One on the upcoming supernatural comedy series, Donna’s Inferno. He’ll also share top billing with Glenn Close, Willem Defoe, and Noomi Rapace in the sci-fi film, What Happened to Monday?
7 Theresa Russell (Sandra Van Ryan)
“My daughter does NOT get raped in Blue Bay!”
Sandra Van Ryan isn’t going to win any awards for mothering, but she’s doing her best as a single mother and Jet Set Real Estate Agent. After all, Kelly’s dad “didn’t HAVE to kill himself.” Kelly has no right to begrudge her screwing Sam, seeing as Sandra’s the more lawful choice. Sandra is genuinely upset when Kelly claims Sam raped her -- she even offers to share her Valium!
After Wild Things, Russell starred in Kevin Williamson’s short-lived TV series, Glory Days. She also played another dubious mom, Sara Taylor, in the TV movie Liz and Dick, with Lindsay Lohan. In 2016, Russell starred with Taryn Manning and Billy Zane in A Winter Rose, a movie about an alcoholic orphan who becomes an overnight international singing sensation. The critically acclaimed film screened at the 2014 Dances with Films Festival and the soundtrack boasted six hit singles. It’s been picked up for distribution, and will hit screens in 2017.
6 Jeff Perry (Bryce Hunter)
"'No little girl can ever make me come.’ Jesus. Too bad. We might have had some physical evidence.”
Hunter is the local D.A. who is crass in the office, but the picture of compassionate professionalism in the courtroom. At first, he’s after Lombardo because Sandra Van Ryan gets “a bug up his ass”. But after Sam is exonerated, Hunter feels bad and tells Ray to back off.
Actor Jeff Perry has logged a lot of hours on TV. Before Wild Things, he was Mr. Katimski, the gay English teacher on My So Called Life, and he played tech savvy Inspector Harvey Leek on 122 episodes of Nash Bridges. He’s also done guest spots on The West Wing, ER, Lost, Prison Break, Fringe, two CSI series, and he put extra Grey in Grey’s Anatomy as Meredith’s dad. He is currently a series regular on Kerry Washington's political drama, Scandal, as Cyrus Beene, the former White House Chief of Staff who becomes Governor Vargas’ presidential running mate.
5 Eduardo Yañez (Frankie Condo)
"I'll be seeing you.”
He’s Sandra Van Ryan’s favorite sexy deck hand, but, as she harshly says within earshot, he “can’t handle [her] boat the way [Sam] can.” Regardless, a smitten Frankie defends the Van Ryans’ honor by running Sam’s car into the swamp and punching him out in front of an alligator. Frankie also threatens Sam after the big pay-off in Ken’s office, but never follows through.
Though he hasn’t done much in the States, Yañez is one of Mexico’s biggest stars, with 63 acting credits to his name, including the telenovelas Distilling Love, Fuego en la Sangre, Wild Heart, True Love, and Amores con Trampa. Soon, you can see him in the timely film, Make Love Great Again, a feature about an American musician and a Mexican grad student whose love is threatened by immigration officers and the U.S. Government. You can also see him in ¡He Matado a Mi Marido!, a Mexican crime comedy about a woman who accidentally murders her philandering husband and must cover up her misdeeds at a party that he is hosting.
4 Toi Svane Stepp - as Toi Svane (Nicole)
"Rules are rules, Mr. Lombardo."
Nicole is Kelly’s friend and fellow cheerleader who helps wash Mr. Lombardo’s Glades muddied jeep. The rule-conscious Nicole insists that Sam produce the car wash coupon he purchased from the school fundraiser. While Sam is in the house, Nicole deliberately strands her friend, at Kelly’s insistence, leaving her conspicuously alone with Sam.
A Florida native, Toi hasn’t done a whole lot of acting since her first role in Wild Things. Apart from a brief appearance in From Justin to Kelly and a guest spot on Dawson’s Creek, she took a decade off to start a family. But she got back in the saddle in 1998 for a small role in Creature, the sci-fi horror mini-series starring Craig T. Nelson and Kim Cattrall. Based on the book, White Shark, by Jaws author Peter Benchley, it tells the story of small town that gets terrorized by a shark monster (minus the tornado).
3 Jennifer Taylor - as Jennifer Bini (Barbara Baxter)
"Kelly Van Ryan's gonna wash your jeep?”
Barbara is Sam’s girlfriend at the time of the rape allegations. Her dad (Sandra’s lawyer) dumps Sam by proxy at the country club. Besides, as an elderly woman in her late twenties, her tenure as Sam’s girlfriend was probably short-lived. Barbara doesn’t get to do much besides eye Kelly suspiciously, look scandalized in the courtroom, and get called “pricey trim” by Ray.
Actress Jennifer Taylor was first runner up for Miss Florida in 1995, and Wild Things was only her second acting credit. But she went on to do numerous guest spots on TV shows like Arli$$, Diagnosis Murder, Charmed, NCIS, and Shameless, plus a four episode arc on Burn Notice as another Sam’s (Bruce Campbell) “sugar mommy”, Elsa. She planned to quit acting and teach the trade in Florida when she was offered the part of Chelsea, Charlie Sheen’s first serious girlfriend, on Two and a Half Men. Before that, she had played three different characters on the show, including an appearance in the pilot.
2 Denise Richards (Kelly Van Ryan)
"My mom would kill me if she knew I took the rover.”
The filmmakers clearly anticipated that Richards would be the number one draw for boob enthusiasts, because when she’s not in a bikini, she’s in a sheer one-piece or she's entirely topless. She’s perfectly cast as the spoiled little rich girl who, despite living in a literal mansion, can’t wait till her mother dies to cash in her trust fund. Richards went on to star in the cult favorite Drop Dead Gorgeous, and has continued to pay the bills with TV guest spots a-plenty and five films in postproduction for 2017.
Most recently, she acted alongside Dolph Lundgren and Jonathan Lipnicki as a morally ambiguous FBI agent in the action thriller, Altitude. She also stars in American Violence as a psychologist who studies a death row serial killer. In life, Richards mirrored Kelly’s dubious romantic choices, but turned it around when she divorced Charlie Sheen and sued for full custody of their two children. It’s probably safe to assume that she’s a better mom than Sandra Van Ryan.
1 Neve Campbell (Suzie Toller)
“Take a look around us, Sam. You’re gonna have to teach me how to drive this thing before I can get rid of you.”
Neve Campbell as Suzie Toller is everything. The role is a well-calculated 180 from the good girl image Neve depicted in the Scream movies and six seasons of the Fox melodrama, Party of Five. She’s a secretly brilliant swamp-dwelling delinquent with a vendetta and an intricate master plan. Throughout the film, characters compliment Kelly on her “performance”, but nobody ever suspects Suzie, who plays the patsy to the hilt. Her flawless deception enables her to sail off into the sunset with the lump sum of Van Ryan moneys and zero loose ends.
Campbell currently plays political consultant Leann Harvey on House of Cards. She also had a sexy cameo on Mad Man as the flight attendant who made Don Draper’s skies a whole lot friendlier. In 2018, she’ll fly high again, this time alongside the Rock in the China set-action thriller, Skyscraper.
Did we miss any of your favorite Wild Things actors? Is the film deserving of its cult status, or do you think it's overhyped? Let us know in the comments.