Hocus Pocus cast recalls 'much scarier' original draft before it became 'female Three Stooges '

Instead of a lighthearted family comedy about witches sucking the lives out of little children, Hocus Pocus was almost a... straightforward horror flick about witches sucking the lives out of little children, according to the original cast.

"I remember reading an original draft that was much scarier, and that was the draft we auditioned with," Vinessa Shaw, who played Allison, one of the three kids from the original movie, tells EW in our roundtable reunion interview with the cast.

"When we started shooting, it became a funny version, much lighter. It had the female Three Stooges element in it, and all the choreography that was added lent itself to a much more comedic movie bringing out the strengths of the actresses," she says of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, who return as the Sanderson Sisters, three witches from the Puritan era, in the new sequel.

"I think that's why the movie is beloved," she continues. "Obviously, the witches and what they're doing — sucking the lives out of children — is scary, but the fact that it's done in a comedic fashion is palatable."

Hocus Pocus Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy
Hocus Pocus Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy

Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock 'Hocus Pocus' stars Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker

When asked for details on the differences between the original screenplay for the Kenny Ortega-directed film, Shaw points to the Sanderson Sisters' dialogue. "It wasn't them fumbling around and bumping into each other, it was straightforward. It was more like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz; it had a darker, 'I'll get you, my pretty' quality. They're a trifecta and can't do anything without the other, which was stronger in the second draft," she remembers.

Omri Katz, who played Max, Allison's love interest, also remembers auditioning with a "scarier draft" of the film. "Once they had an idea of who they wanted to cast, I'm sure they had their two cents on it, too, and brought a more comedic, family-friendly, happier, not-so-sinister movie," he explains. "It was a different approach... I don't remember a lot of those punchlines or one-liners being present."

Doug Jones, Omri Katz Hocus Pocus - 1993
Doug Jones, Omri Katz Hocus Pocus - 1993

Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock Doug Jones and Omri Katz in 'Hocus Pocus'

Then again, Katz also admits elsewhere in our conversation that he was high while filming certain scenes, so maybe everything was funny to him at the time.

Though Hocus Pocus wasn't a success at the time of its release, it became a pop cultural phenomenon thanks to seasonal airings on various Disney networks, ultimately spawning a Disney+ sequel in September that broke the all-time viewership record for streaming movies in the history of Nielsen tracking.

Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 are now streaming on Disney+.

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