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Frank Beddor
Frank Beddor
March 29, 2024

Everything You Need to Know About the “Wicked” Movie

Wicked is a pop art murder horror mystery. Scary and funny, youthful and smart, Wicked will keep you guessing, glued to your seat as the mystery unfolds.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a red dress pouring wine while William R. Moses and Vanessa Zima.

The Plot

Ellie is a bored teenager living in Casa Del Norte, a sterile gated desert development somewhere east of Los Angeles, where life is far from idyllic. Mom is screwing erratic next-door neighbor Lawson and her father is carrying on with Lena the Swedish au-pair, which drives Ellie insanely jealous due to her unhealthy and extreme devotion to Dad. Then there’s younger sister Inger, who seems to be an innocent bystander to all this crazy action. Suddenly, Mom is found murdered in the kitchen, and suspicion focuses on the explosive Lawson. Then things start to get really creepy. Ellie begins to assume her mother’s role; not only fixing meals but wearing her revealing dresses…Her relationship with Dad transforms into something rather more lascivious than expected. Meanwhile, the veteran detective has moved Ellie to the top of the suspect list…Not even a man of his experience could foresee the last shocking twist.

The Cast

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a blue button-down shirt with kitchen knives hanging next to her.

Julia Stiles – Ellie Christianson

Julia Stiles is electric in her breakthrough lead role. By turns childlike, bratty, calculating, and lethal, she is a combination of 40’s vamp and 50’s noir. She was totally in sync with Ellie’s wicked behavior. Stiles explained at the time, “Ellie’s got a very twisted view of her own world and will do anything to get what she wants. I related to everything she felt – although,” she insisted, “I really do love my mother.”

The 15-year-old was recommended to producer Frank Beddor and responded to the script with a hand-written letter about how much she understood Ellie. Impressed with the young actor’s commitment, Beddor flew her out to L.A. for an audition with himself and director Michael Steinberg. She blew them away. Her performance in the film was so strong that Beddor put the unknown actor’s picture on the poster and her name above the title. “I treated her like a star because I believe she would become one,” remembered Beddor. 
He was right. Stiles would go on to star in iconic teen films like 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance, spar with Matt Damon in the Jason Bourne franchise, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Emmy for her performance in Season 5 of Dexter.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and Patrick Muldoon sitting across from each other on the edge of a hot tub.

Patrick Muldoon – Lawson Smith

Melrose Place heartthrob Patrick Muldoon joined Wicked right after finishing his work in the Paul Verhoeven cult classic Starship Troopers. Muldoon steals scenes as the sexy psycho neighbor, Lawson. Muldoon made an “out there” character more accessible with his comedic take, likeability, and star quality. Muldoon initially passed on the role but agreed to come to the set to talk about the part after the filmmakers addressed his concerns. “He liked our ideas and we hired him that day,” said Beddor.  

“His life is pretty much over,” said Muldoon about his character, “His wife and kid leave him at the beginning of the movie and he’s completely lost. When his adulterous sex partner next door is murdered – it pushes him past the edge…I liked playing a guy with absolutely nothing to lose.” On Lawson and Ellie’s connection, Muldoon pointed to the trauma both experience in the film, “Both of their worlds have totally collapsed, so they’re like the two lost souls of Casa Del Norte.”
The former Days of Our Lives star continued his eclectic career after Wicked, working with Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Val Kilmer, Ed Asner, and Liam Hemsworth. Most recently, he was seen alongside Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger in Neil Jordan’s neo-noir crime thriller Marlowe.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and William R. Moses sitting next to each other on the couch.

William R. Moses – Ben Christianson

Father doesn’t always know best in this suburban-Gothic spin on Lolita. William R. Moses plays Ben, the stressed and crumbling patriarch who has some serious boundary issues. “I think the relationship between Ellie and Ben starts as a strongly bonded father and daughter in a dysfunctional family and that dysfunction just totally takes over,” said Moses. ”The father starts with a basis of good intention and then because of his own character weaknesses devolves into his lowest self. Pressure and guilt completely destroy him and he makes the most destructive choices possible.”

Director Michael Steinberg said Moses’ performance was the “cornerstone” of the film. “This movie is always trying to play two tones together: one is the tragic disintegration of a family with the father at the epicenter, and the other is this absurdly comedic story of what happens when your world gets blown apart and you’re powerless to stop it from getting worse and worse and worse.”
Aside from Wicked, Moses appeared in 140 episodes of the prime-time soap Falcon Crest and played in Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts. He has had guest spots on dozens of TV series including Mad Men, Homeland, and How to Get Away with Murder. Since 2022, he has had a recurring role on the long-running soap General Hospital.

Still black and white image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Michael Parks in a suit and tie.

Michael Parks – Detective Boland

Owner of over 140 film and television credits during a 50-year career, Michael Parks portrays the laconic Detective Boland in a “delicious, stylized performance” that evokes 1950s noir. Boland brings a Bogart-esque cynicism to Casa Del Norte, continuously suspicious of everyone in the seemingly idyllic community. 

Parks said he enjoyed playing the grizzled investigator, describing him as “a man apart from the turmoil. It gives you a different point of view, less conflict in your direction…Boland’s not a voyeur, but he has an objective point of view and gets to look at all the other characters…”
Parks, who passed away in 2017, had a long and varied career including playing Adam in John Huston’s The Bible: In the Beginning… and a disaffected, wandering biker in the NBC series Then Came Bronson. Parks experienced a career resurgence in the early 2000s, most notably working with Quentin Tarantino on the Kill Bill films and Django Unchained. He is the subject of a documentary produced by filmmaker Kevin Smith titled Long Lonesome Highway.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring William R. Moses and Vanessa Zima looking into a grave.

Vanessa Zima – Inger Christianson

Then ten-year-old Vanessa Zima portrayed Ellie’s younger sister, Inger, who by the film’s end evolves from an innocent child to a potential killer in the Christianson family cycle of self-destruction. “She has this mix of vulnerability and sweetness,” said producer Frank Beddor, “…and yet there’s something else going on, you can sense a darker place which made her an ideal choice.”

Zima’s talent was on full display in her portrayal of Inger and the young actor enjoyed the more dramatic requirements of her role. “I thought it was fun to cry at the funeral and then to almost fall into the grave,” she said impishly. 
Zima was hardly a rookie when she showed up on set, having been nominated for a Young Artist Award for playing Peter Fonda’s granddaughter in Ulee’s Gold. She also appeared in the 1995 adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club books alongside Julia Stiles’ future 10 Things I Hate About You co-star Larisa Oleynik.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Linda Hart singing into a microphone in a blue dress and layered pearl necklace.

Linda Hart – Mrs. Potter

Linda Hart portrays the neighborhood watchdog, Mrs. Potter, who entices Detective Boland with her soulful rendition of “I Honestly Love You” at Ben and Lena’s wedding. Director Michael Steinberg wrote Hart a letter pleading for her to consider the role and she blew the filmmakers away with her musical talent. “As soon as she started singing I panicked…” joked Beddor, “…this way too good for what the character Mrs. Potter was supposedly capable of. Only later did I learn that Linda together her Grammy-award-winning family, “The Harts,” had done 14 albums.” 
Other highlights of Hart’s music career have included an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and opening gigs for Hank Williams, Jr. and The Oak Ridge Boys. She has appeared on Broadway in shows such as Anything Goes, Hairspray, and Catch Me If You Can. Film and television appearances have included Get Shorty, Tin Cup, and Desperate Housewives.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Vanessa Zima, Linda Hart, and Chelsea Field.

Chelsea Field – Karen Christianson

As mom and murder victim, Chelsea Field brought real sympathy to the part of Karen. Field says, ”Even though she’s cheating with the neighbor, I think you understand where Ellie’s mother’s frustrations come from when you see the lack of communication between her and her husband. And also, Ellie is a major force to contend with! Karen’s not the ideal mom but neither is she the mom from hell. That would be too easy.” 

Field launched her acting career off the heels of ten years as a professional dancer. With roles ranging from parts in large-scale action movies to heart-warming family films, she has starred in Flipper opposite Elijah Wood and The Last Boyscout with Bruce Willis, and recently had a recurring role in NCIS: New Orleans.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring William R. Moses and Louise Myrback sitting together at a wedding reception.

Louise Myrback – Lena
In her first film role in the United States, Swedish stage actress Louise Myrback portrayed Lena,  the Christianson au pair who falls for, and eventually marries, Ben. But Lena has to contend with Ellie, who presents herself as a rival for Ben’s affections. “It was very important to Lena that Ellie not manipulate her,”  said Myrback, “She knows that if she doesn’t succeed in having power over the daughter, she’s not going to have a chance with the father, because she can see that Ellie has a tremendous amount of power over Ben.”

The Director

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles and director Michael Steinberg.

Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg was baptized as a film lover at age 8 after his father took him to see Bonnie and Clyde in their native Rapid City, South Dakota. After gaining recognition with his UCLA student short, Nightwatch, Steinberg teamed with his film school friend Neal Jiminez to direct the drama The Waterdance for Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, The Walking Dead). The film was a festival darling, winning the IFP Spirit Award for “Best First Feature” and the “Audience Award” at Sundance. His next two features, Bodies, Rest, & Motion and Sleep With Me were both selected for the “Un Certain Regard” sections at the 1993 and 1994 editions of the Cannes Film Festivals. 

In approaching Wicked, Steinberg wanted it to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. “What’s interesting is that it ends up feeling real because it’s all grounded in deep-rooted truths about human nature,” said Steinberg. “We wanted people to have fun with Wicked but be disturbed by it too. To get under their skin.”

The Crew

Producer Frank Beddor, dressed in white pants and a white jacket, standing next to a poster for the thriller "Wicked" at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

Frank Beddor – Producer 

Frank Beddor had scaled the heights of professional skiing (as a two-time freestyle world champion) in his early 20s before arriving in L.A. as an actor and film producer. On a chairlift during the 1998 Sundance Film Festival pitched an outrageous comedy feature he had acquired to Fox executive Dylan Sellers. That project was There’s Something About Mary, which grossed over $350 million, was nominated for two Golden Globes, and is on AFI’s list of “Greatest American Comedies”. 

He was first attracted to Wicked, originally titled The Second Wife, due to the character of Ellie, the relationships, the absurdities of the situations, the potential for black comedy, and bending the mystery genre. Since Wicked, Beddor wrote The Looking Glass Wars series, which became a New York Times bestseller and a sensation in the U.K. in 2004. He went on to create the Hatter M, series (six graphic novels depicting the journey of Alyss’s faithful bodyguard, Hatter Madigan) to sate the appetite of his fans and readers. To cross-pollinate the LGW’s universe of content, he also produced original songs, audiobooks, card games, video games, an apparel line, and a proposal for a theatrical musical. Currently, he hosts the All Things Alice podcast and is in pre-production on the near future sci-fi tale The Juliet at Warner Bros, working alongside Oscar-winning producer Chuck Roven (Oppenheimer, The Dark Knight trilogy) of Atlas Entertainment.

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles struggling on the stairs with Chelsea Field in the background.

Eric Weiss – Screenwriter

A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, and alum of the American Film Institute, Eric Weiss experienced both resistance and curiosity when shopping his Electra-in-the-suburbs thriller. “When I wrote Wicked people thought I was nuts,” he recalled, “Just completely crazed. I think I would get meetings just because people wanted to meet me.” Producer Frank Beddor and director Michael Steinberg loved the script and worked with Weiss to enhance the mystery elements of the project before production. 

Weiss has also penned the black comedy indie Bongwater, also released in 1998, starring Luke Wilson, Brittany Murphy, and Jack Black. His next project was the 2001 military satire Buffalo Soldiers, adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert O’Connor. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Ed Harris, was nominated for six British Independent Film Awards and won Best Screenplay at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

Behind-the-scenes image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles, wearing a red top and pink skirt, sitting on a raised platform with a camera and light in the foreground.

Bernd Heinl – Director of Photography

Bernd Heinl had previously worked with Steinberg on the 1993 drama Bodies, Rest & Motion. He used the lighting and the camera angles to convey the changing tone of the film: “Early in the story, we used more fill and bounce light and shot with wide angles, but after the mother died we shot everything a bit closer and went a little more direct, so that there would be more contrast. We also kept the walls darker so they would seem moody and threatening.”

To avoid slipping into the pure horror mode, Heinl said, “We didn’t use light shafts or distorted lenses or too many crazy angles because we wanted to keep the characters more human. Also, colors in horror films are often over the top and our background colors were enough, so I barely put gels on any of the lights. We kept the faces and skin tone neutral in the foreground and played with color in the background.”

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Chelsea Field lying on the floor with Vanessa Zima kneeling over her, both dressed in red.

Dominic Watkins – Production Designer

Wicked was not only Julia Stiles’ breakout role, it also proved to be the breakthrough for production designer Dominic Watkins. In the 26 years since Wicked took Sundance by storm, Watkins has built a glittering career defining the look of major blockbusters such as Bad Boys II, The Bourne Supremacy, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Snow White and the Huntsman

For Wicked, Watkins chose colors that had a dual personality: “In the kitchen, for instance, we used a peachy-orange color to convey warmth and normality, but depending on how we lit it, it could equally go towards red and have more violent connotations. We also put a lot of thought into what Ellie’s bedroom should be like because that was the only space she owned and decorated, and it was quite a contrast from the rest of the spaces. We used a wallpaper with a black base to create an oppressive atmosphere so that when you came out of the room, there was a sense of relief.”

Watkins said one of his points of departure was in researching the gated community. “I guess the planners view them as oases,” said Watkins, “but I think of them as something more like quicksand. What people look for is safety and seclusion but what they end up with is sterility and soullessness. And since so much of the outcome of the story has to do with the environment and the frustrations of the people within it, the setting was very important.”

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles in a green shirt, pale blue jacket, and blue and green skirt.

Sara Jane Slotnick – Costume Designer

Costume Designer Sara Jane Slotnick is known for her ability to authentically outfit offbeat characters. In choosing Ellie’s wardrobe, she said that she “wanted everything she put on to have a sense that it was completely unique to her.” Ellie’s baby blue leather coat was a key piece of clothing that defined her character, with Slotnick describing it as “her protection against the world – her security blanket.”
Since working on Wicked, Slotnick has worked on a wide range of projects including Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog, the 2000 blockbuster Charlie’s Angels, Oscar-nominated films Loving and Blonde, and the Patty Jenkins limited series I Am the Night. Her most recent projects include an adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot from It writer Gary Dauberman and the AMC crime drama series Parish starring Giancarlo Esposito.

The Music

Composer Cliff Martinez working in a recording studio while holding a brown guitar.

Cliff Martinez – Composer

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cliff Martinez has helped define pop culture both on stage and in the recording studio. Martinez’s debut as a composer was Steven Soderbergh’s Palme d’Or winner Sex, Lies, and Videotape. This was the first of 11 collaborations with Soderbergh, including Traffic and Contagion. Other notable projects include Drive, Spring Breakers, and The Neon Demon, for which he was named Best Composer at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. 

From our recent blog on the Wicked soundtrack: “Martinez’s haunting and evocative compositions perfectly complement the dark and twisted narrative, immersing viewers in a world of moral ambiguity and psychological tension. With his trademark blend of electronic and orchestral elements, Martinez creates a sonic landscape that mirrors the inner turmoil and moral decay of the characters, enhancing the film’s suspense and intrigue.”

Cover of the 1999 debut album, "Split," from Canadian heavy metal band Kittie.


Wicked’s soundtrack perfectly reflects Ellie’s angst and rage with an energetic collection of late 90s alt-rock interspersed with a couple of classic love songs, emulating the film’s blended tone. Artists featured include Julian Hatfield, Kittie, Snake River Conspiracy, The Cranes, Switchblade Symphony, Jack Off Jill, Dusty Springfield, and Olivia-Newton John. 

To further explore the music of Wicked, check out our recent blog analyzing each song featured in the film.



Image of Julia Stiles, director Michael Steinberg, and producer Frank Beddor standing in front of a movie theater marquee at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Wicked has been praised for its boldness, style, and Stiles’ powerful performance. In his review for the Sundance program John Cooper called Wicked “an exhilarating hybrid that continuously surprises and amuses.” Writing for Variety, Glenn Lovell wrote that the film is “chockablock with nods to Lynch and early De Palma” and “a stylish, dandy nail biter.” While Father Geek wrote for Ain’t It Cool News that Wicked is “a gem of the macabre” and a “perfectly realized slick little flick.”

Other rave reviews for Wicked

Wicked is delightfully derivative: its style, lighting, subject, and especially its penchant for cold distant camera work are so Hitchcockian … ” – James Digiovanna, Tucson Weekly 

“Julia Stiles is destined for greatness” – Brendan Peterson, Film/Tape World 

“Great Movie! A surprising thriller of a “Wicked” little family in a gated community” – Jake Weien, Flagstaff LIVE 

“Visually sophisticated and darkly humorous” – Alison MacDonald, Austin American Statesman

” … Stiles’ performance is so stunning” – David Pfister, Interview Magazine 

“Wicked is a dark sleek film with a hell bent breakthrough performance by Stiles who is destined to grab an audience’s attention” – Jose Martinez, SOMA Magazine 

” … the most stylish suburban thriller in years.” – David Schwartz, World Cinema 

Wicked’s production values are top notch. The movie dances lightly on a tightrope that stretches from melodrama to farce” – The Georgia Straight – Vancouver

Wicked is one of those movies that sucks you into its twisted realm so subtly you don’t realize how far your mind has been bent until you leave the theater. ” – Sandy Gow, Vancouver International Film Festival 

“Stile’s smoldering performance in Wicked, earned her a starring role in the upcoming 10 Things I Hate About You.” – Michael Hogan, Vanity Fair 

Where to Watch

Still image from the thriller movie "Wicked" featuring Julia Stiles lying on the floor and looking underneath a door with an overlaid graphic reading "Julia Stiles" and "Wicked".

You can watch Julie Stiles’ breakthrough performance in Wicked on the following streaming platforms: Amazon, YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, Plex, and Tubi.

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