The filmmakers behind ‘Hocus Pocus’ had very different actors in mind for the lead roles



“Hocus Pocus” has become so popular that fans can find it hard to imagine other actors in the film’s lead roles. (Photos by Buena Vista / Andrew Cooper)

(NEXSTAR) – It’s hard to believe, but Leonardo DiCaprio almost played one of cinema’s most famous virgins in a classic Disney movie.

The spooky season is in full swing right now, as evidenced by the constantly repeated broadcasts of “Hocus Pocus” on basic cable. The 1993 film is now a beloved cult classic, with fans still flocking to midnight film screenings, tribute concerts, and even “Hocus Pocus”-inspired drag brunch performances after all these years.

The movie has since become so synonymous with Halloween that it’s almost unthinkable to imagine other actors in the movie’s lead roles, but of course that’s exactly what the filmmakers envisioned during production.

During development of the film, producer and story creator David Kirschner said he envisions a completely different actress for the role of Winifred Sanderson, ultimately played by Bette Midler in the finished film.

“The first person I really wanted for Winifred Sanderson was Cloris Leachman,” Kirschner said during a panel discussion in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary.e birthday. “And that was the first person, because I was so in love with her from the Mel Brooks movies, from ‘Young Frankenstein’ in particular.”

Kirschner did not say whether Leachman, also known for her roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Last Picture Show”, had ever been officially offered the role. It is, however, much more documented that the role of Max Dennison, played in the film by Omri Katz, could easily have gone to Leonardo DiCaprio had he wanted to.

“Hocus Pocus” director Kenny Ortega in an interview with D23 in 2018 said he met Leonardo DiCaprio at the insistence of a couple of casting agents during pre-production. But everyone – Ortega, the casting agents and DiCaprio – already knew that the young actor would most likely pass the role because he was already ready for roles in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “This Boy’s Life”.

Nonetheless, Ortega met DiCaprio and wanted him for the role. But at the end of the meeting, DiCaprio politely made it clear that his head was “elsewhere,” Ortega said.

DiCaprio himself once commented his decision to refuse “Hocus Pocus” in an interview with Variety, saying that Disney made it difficult by offering him “more money than I ever dreamed of”.

“I don’t know where I got the nerve,” DiCaprio told point-of-sale in 2014. “You live in an environment where you are influenced by people who tell you to make a lot of money and hit for how hot iron is. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who stuck to my guns.

Ortega has since said he’s thrilled to have Omri Katz to play Max.

“Omri was so out of place,” Ortega said. “So my feet on the ground. So honest. His acting is invisible. So I was very grateful to be able to work with him. I have to say it.

As for some of the film’s other iconic roles, it was widely reported that Rosie O’Donnell was offered the role of Mary Sanderson before he returned to Kathy Najimy, but she turned it down because ‘she feared the character was too dark. Rumors also persist that Jennifer Lopez auditioned for the role of Sarah Jessica Parker by Sarah Sanderson, although it is not clear if there is much truth to this claim.

In any case, the filmmakers – like the fans – are horribly happy with the way the actors have come together.

“I think the Sanderson sisters are performed perfectly,” said Mick Garris, one of the film’s writers, during a 25e anniversary event which aired on Freeform in 2018. “[They’re] like a supernatural Three Stooges. In drag.

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