13 'Hocus Pocus' Facts That You Probably Never Knew
Maybe you've watched it every Halloween since you were a kid, and maybe you can mouth along with the dialogue. But the things you never knew about Hocus Pocus might just force you to admit that you're not the planet's number one authority on the classic Bette Midler movie. With such a huge cast, it's natural that there is a lot to discuss. Some of the cast either popped up in unexpected places following the movie (in a nutshell: country music, Will & Grace, a shamanism class) while other members of the cast only scored their parts because certain other huge A list actors declined their roles. But possibly one of the most fascinating aspects of the movie is how engaged its cast still appear to be by the film.
Everyone from Thora Birch to James Marsden have spoken with great affection about their time making the film, and some of the cast seem to have delved even further into either their own links with witchcraft or witchcraft itself in their post-Pocus lives. And how could you blame them? After such a magical movie making experience complete with a suitably banging soundtrack, it would be hard to resist the pull of witchcraft. So, brush up on these Hocus Pocus facts and impress your friends at parties. There's no such thing as loving this film too much.
1. Sarah Jessica Parker Has A Very Real Link To Witchcraft
After she appeared on the family history show Who Do You Think You Are? Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that her 10th great grandmother Esther Elwell was accused of committing "sundry acts of witchcraft" in Salem in 1692. Esther and two other women were accused of committing witchcraft on their neighbor Mary Fitch and causing her death. The show screened in 2004. Just imagine how much more intense the Sanderson sister's performance would have been if she'd already known this back in 1993.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down The Role Of Max
The star auditioned for — and won — the part of Max (which ended up being played by Omri Katz). It's often reported that he declined the role to star as the developmentally disabled character Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, but, according to an interview with the actor in Variety, DiCaprio hadn't auditioned for the second film when he turned down Hocus Pocus. And the environmental activist is still proud of himself, telling Variety:
"I don’t know where the hell I got the nerve. You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the iron’s hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns."
3. The Movie Did Terribly At The Time
According to Yahoo Movies, Hocus Pocus was a flop at the time, debuting at fourth place in the box office and earning "just $39.5 million, a disappointment for its studio, Walt Disney." The critics were scathing. Roger Ebert gave it one star, calling it "a film desperately in need of self-discipline," while the Associated Press said, "the only real curses in this film will be yours as you walk up the aisle to leave.” But, hey, the film that laughs last, laughs longest, right?
4. The Release Date Didn't Help
Presumably to avoid competing with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Addams Family Values, both of which were released around Halloween in 1993, the movie got a summer release. Hocus Pocus came out in July, which might explain why people weren't feeling it so much at the time.
5. The Actor Who Played Billy Butcherson Had Real Moths In His Mouth
Gross but true: at the Hocus Pocus 20th anniversary Q&A panel, Doug Jones, who played zombie ex-boyfriend Billy Butcherson, confirmed that the moth scene above took place before CGI and that they fashioned a dental dam because "moths have to stay very dry, they can't fly otherwise." They used a moth trainer on set to put three moths into his mouth with a tweezer. Yeah.
6. Billy Was Supposed To Be Hot
In further exciting zombie ex news, Jones told BuzzFeed that, according to Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega, Billy Butcherson was supposed to be a "hot zombie." He wore "a foam latex prosthetic makeup that gave me pronounced cheek bones and a pronounced jawline and sunken cheeks, so they could take flesh away from places that might be decayed. And he ended up looking kind of attractive."
7. It Was The Most Fun Thora Birch Ever Had On A Film
Birch, who played Max's sister Dani, was full of praise for the experience, stating at the same 20th anniversary panel that "honestly the most fun I’ve ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus, I was 10, it’s my favorite holiday anyway, and it doesn’t get any better than that, really."
8. Thackery Binx's Voice Actor Later Became The "Pocket Gay" On 'Will & Grace'
In an interview with The Daily Beast, we learned that the man behind Thackery Binx, Jason Marsden (who not only voiced the cat, but also dubbed Sean Murray's part), became the guest actor behind the date who's referred to as "a pocket gay" on your favorite sitcom before Jack translates for us: “a perfect travel-sized homosexual.”
9. 'Hocus Pocus' Began Life As A Bedtime Story
Producer David Kirschner explained at the 20th anniversary panel that it started life as a bedtime story for his daughters before he got it published as a children's story in Muppet Magazine. "It kind of just grew from there."
10. The Disney Execs Got The Full Halloween Treatment
Kirschner described what sounds like a magical Halloween grotto that had been constructed solely to wow the Disney suits while he was pitching the movie. "They walked into the room and there were broomsticks hanging from the ceiling on monofilament wire and Mary's wonderful vacuum cleaner, that was hanging in the center, I'd taken out the motor so it wouldn't break the ceiling." There was also intense focus to detail: "Fifteen pounds of candy corn, spread across the table as if the bag had ripped." It basically sounds like Christmas come early for Halloween nerds.
11. Larry Bagby, Who Played Ice, Is Now A Country Star
Remember goofy bully Ernie AKA Ice? He went on to do great things. Not only did he play jock Larry Blaisdell on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but he released not one, but two, albums of country music. According to the about section of his website, that's what he really enjoys doing: "Larry Bagby’s true passion has been, and remains, as a musician. His acting experiences, coupled with a solid background in character study, has given Larry the ability to craft a song for fans from any walk of life with audiences immediately identifying with the storyteller."
12. The Trailer Has Scenes That Never Made It Into The Movie
Seriously, where's the brilliant Mary-snacking-at-the-supermarket shot from the above?
13. Emily Binx Is Now Really Into Witchcraft
In a fascinating Cosmopolitan article about how YouTube star Venetian Princess got (falsely) identified as the actor who played Emily Binx, they reached out to the real actor behind the role, Amanda Shepherd (Jodie-Amy Rivera was her stage name). Shepherd explained that Hocus Pocus was "a foretelling of my current life, being around witches," since, at the time of the interview, she was "taking a plants, spirits, and herbalism class where I'm learning about shamanism" and hanging out with good witches.
Who knew the actors had been so influenced by the movie? So get excited — the Sanderson sisters may be gone, but their spirit lives on. And now you can keep them alive by trotting out these movie facts.