It only took 27 years, but Hocus Pocus finally hit the No. 1 spot at the U.S. box office. On October 2, Walt Disney re-released the ‘90s Halloween favorite, and the Sanderson Sisters promptly zipped by Christopher Nolan’s Tenet on their first few days back in coronavirus pandemic-affected theaters and drive-ins. (Nolan’s movie still won the weekend, overall, though.) That’s a lofty height that the movie never reached in its initial release in the summer of 1993, where it was trounced by blockbusters like The Firm and Jurassic Park. But the witchy sisters Winifred, Mary and Sarah — played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively — had the last cackle, building a devoted fanbase via constant replays on home video and cable television.
And those fans are in turn cackling with glee about the movie’s second life, which will culminate in a long-awaited sequel that’s bound for the Mouse House’s streaming service, Disney+. Adam Shankman is taking over directing duties from original helmer, Kenny Ortega, but Midler and her on-screen siblings aren’t going anywhere. Both Parker and Najimy have previously hinted that they plan to be part of Hocus Pocus 2, and during a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Midler confirmed that she’s on board as well. “Of course! As soon as we sign on the dotted line,” she says enthusiastically. (Watch our video interview above.)
That enthusiasm is genuine; three decades after making the original Hocus Pocus, Midler still calls it “one of the most fun experiences I ever had.” She certainly looks like she’s having a blast in this behind-the-scenes Instagram picture snapped on the set of “In Search of the Sanderson Sisters,” a one-night only virtual Hocus Pocus reunion benefitting the New York Restoration Project. Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. Elvira Mistress of the Dark is hosting the all-star hour-long event, which will also feature cameos by Glenn Close, Martin Short and Meryl Streep.
As a renowned singer, as well as a popular actress, one of Midler’s favorite parts of making the original film was getting to put her own distinct stamp on a classic tune: “I Put a Spell on You.” Originally recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and later performed by such artists as Nina Simone and Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Spell” provides the basis for a big song-and-dance number that’s featured towards the end of Hocus Pocus. After crashing a Halloween party, Winifred uses music to put Salem’s adult population under her thrall.
Midler’s take on “I Put a Spell on You” has similarly cast a spell over an entire generation of Hocus Pocus fans. Kelly Clarkson paid homage to Winifred on her talk show last year, and YouTube is similarly filled with cover versions. “Screamin’ Jay Hawkins made the song immortal; I just cribbed it,” Midler says modestly. But she also contributed some Sanderson-appropriate updates to the lyrics that ensure she’ll be associated with the song for decades to come. “[The lyric] ‘Of all the witches working, I’m the worst’ — that was my line,” Midler reveals.
That begs the question: What beloved song will Winifred and her sisters make immortal all over again in Hocus Pocus 2? “I have no idea,” Midler confesses. “We haven’t gotten that far.” We’re voting for “Season of the Witch.”
Hocus Pocus is currently streaming on Disney+.
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