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WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
Don’t call it a remake. The Craft: Legacy is a witchy new tale for a new era and a new generation. Although, like Andrew Fleming’s 1996 original, this iteration from writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones follows four teen witches navigating supernatural powers and high school woes, it’s a more relevant reimagining whose villain is the patriarchy rather than a jealous clique leader.
“I always approach my writing from a place of what is the story that I feel needs to be told right now in today’s current landscape,” Lister-Jones tells BAZAAR.com, “but also, what is my personal entry point into that story?”
The director, who saw herself in the magic-wielding outsiders of the original Craft as she grew up in the ’90s, centers her story on Lily (Cailee Spaeny), a young woman who relocates with her mother (Michelle Monaghan) to live with her fiancé (David Duchovny) and his sons. In this new environment, she finds solace in three fellow witches at school (played by Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, and Gideon Adlon). Yes, they chant, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board,” and cast spells on their classmates, but instead of ultimately turning against each other, they join forces to fight the embodiment of toxic masculinity: Lily’s evil, would-be stepfather.
Along the way, Lily discovers her shocking heritage—spoiler alert!—that she was adopted and her real mother is none other than Nancy Downs herself. In the film’s final moments, Fairuza Balk (who plays Nancy in the original too) returns.
Here, Lister-Jones explains how she approached her take on The Craft, how women can strengthen their power in community, and that ending scene.
Was The Craft influential for you growing up? For a lot of women, it was very much a part of the coming-of-age experience.
Yes, absolutely. I came of age in the '90s and was othered and bullied. I had a shaved head in seventh grade and was pretty masculine presenting. So I was misgendered a lot. But I think when the film came out, it really spoke to that part of me that felt so isolated. And to see young women, who were also othered, step into their powers and use them to wreak havoc on their high school was thrilling, to say the least.
Were you ever into actual witchcraft after watching the movie?
A lot of my friends got into it. I didn't do Wicca, but I definitely had my own little coven. We didn't do more traditional witchcraft practices, but I think, in my own way, we were conjuring some things. [Laughs.]
For the original movie, I feel like one takeaway is this is what happens when you take your powers too far or if you're too powerful. And then with this new iteration, it's this is what happens when you combine your power with other people or how powerful you can be in collaboration with others, especially among young women.
Yeah. I think the original was so powerful on so many levels. And I always love when women are allowed to be villains, in all of its deliciousness, but I did really feel that the message that I wanted to explore was much more that no power is too great for women to embody, and that power should drive us to live in community rather than turn on each other. I think that was, on a macro level, one of my biggest intentions with the reimagining of the original, and to really look at the ways in women can have so much self-doubt around stepping into our power. And what it takes to transcend that doubt is really finding a collective and really prioritizing that collective over the individual.
And as much fun as it is to see a woman play a villain, it's also really interesting that the villain in this iteration is toxic masculinity. There was this emphasis on how showing emotion is weakness or something you should hide.
I think anytime I see women turning on each other, I always want to look at the larger structures at work and how we can dismantle those structures together. And it doesn't mean that accountability isn't a part of that, within women and community, but I do think I was interested in seeing how I could explore toxic masculinity in this narrative. And the ways in which men often don't realize how much pain they're in at the hands of the patriarchy, how much toxic masculinity is also causing harm to men. I think that would really change the nature of allyship if more men could get in touch with that. I think there's a new generation of young men that do inspire hope. I want it to also represent an aspirational take on the divine masculine and how it can comingle with the divine feminine in a way that is really beautiful.
Tell me about gathering your cast. What were you looking for? What was it like going through the audition process and assembling your new four?
It was really exciting to discover these four young women. They aren't my discoveries alone; even Zoey Luna, who plays Lourdes, had a few small parts in things. But Lovie Simone and Cailee Spaeny and Gideon Adlon have been working really consistently as young actors for many years now. But it was just so exciting to learn more about who these young women were and what they could bring to these characters. They just brought so much nuance and depth and effervescence to not only each of their characters, but the chemistry between them was just so intoxicating from the second they all entered a room together. Except for Cailee Spaeny, each of them were practitioners of witchcraft to some degree before the film.
It was really cool to see them come into the casting office and have crystals in their pockets and talking about which tarot deck they were using, and Zoey is an incredible astrologist. It just felt like such kismet that these young women became a part of this process and then enriched it so deeply. And now, they all are still such good friends, and I consider them friends.
I read that you were able to work with consultants who were in the occult, or have been involved in occult.
I had three occult consultants who are all practicing. Pam Grossman, she's the author of a book called Waking the Witch, which is really fabulous, and the host of a podcast called The Witch Wave. A friend connected me to her, and she was just such an asset in the scriptwriting process because not only did she write the incantations—because I wanted them to feel really authentic and be able to have an understanding of, in terms of story, structure and narrative at different points in the film—but she also has such an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of witchcraft. So that was really just helpful in terms of contextualizing the film.
And then Bri Luna is better known as The Hood Witch, and I was already a fan of hers and followed her on Instagram. She was really helpful in just broadening my perspective when it came to varying traditions of witchcraft across cultures. Erin Fogel was like our boots-on-the-ground witch in Canada. She really was my eyes on set when it came to the rituals, making sure that the objects that we were placing on our altar were placed properly and that they were authentic objects to the rituals that we were portraying. And that the choreography of each ritual was authentic and was being done respectfully. She also, at the beginning and end of each shoot day, would sort of close and open the circle, so to speak. She made sure that, whatever we might be unintentionally conjuring, those portals were being closed.
Did you consult any of the original cast members when you were putting the film together?
I did meet with all of the original cast members. Yeah. And that was awesome. Just as a fan. Selfishly, I was like, "Well, this is the coolest thing ever." They were all so lovely and gracious, and it was so important to me to have their blessings on the project.
What was some helpful advice or just nuggets of wisdom that stuck with you?
Oh, gosh. It was really interesting to hear from them how the film's lasting impact surprised each of them. My understanding was that none of them really had the sense that it would resonate as deeply as it did and how powerful that was. They're still going to these conventions this many years later and connecting with fans that are just so deeply moved by what that movie put out into the universe.
I'd love to know the inspiration behind Fairuza's cameo and storyline.
Well, Fairuza Balk is everything to me. In a nutshell, that sort of was the inspiration. If you're going to talk about The Craft, you're talking about Fairuza Balk, and that's not taking away from the contributions of the entire cast. Each of those women is so iconic, but, just as an actor and a young woman, Fairuza Balk was so important to me. And so influential and so inspiring. And I think Nancy Downs, as a character, is just so deeply resonant and lasting. I liked the idea of bringing her back in a way that could tease the potential of a sequel. That would be the story of being an intergenerational narrative that could incorporate how that generation of witches would band together with the current one potentially.
Absolutely. Is that something you wondered as you grew up as a Craft fan? Like, "I wonder what happens to Nancy after this"?
Oh, totally. There's been so much speculation among Craft fans, and so many different versions of where they would want to see the original cast. But I think ageism is very real in our society and in our industry. And I love the idea of seeing where those women would be now, and how they could be even more powerful than they were, the lessons that they learned since we last saw them.
As much as the film does focus on the four girls' journey together, a lot of it is also Lily finding herself and realizing where she comes from. What is she thinking in those final moments when she discovers Nancy is her mom?
I think so much happens to Lily over the course of the film in terms of her sort of understanding her identity, understanding where she fits in in the world, finding a community for the first time, and then ultimately feeling like the most isolated she ever has by the third act. The experience of adolescence, especially as a young woman, and I'm including trans women when I speak of young women, is such a roller coaster. There're such choppy waters to navigate at any given turn. Lily became an example of that just on a micro scale of how many new things a young woman has to confront at any given moment and how life shattering that new information continues to be. The final moment in the film, she's embodied in a new way. And she is living in her power in a really new way. And so I think in that moment to meet her birth mother is all the more emboldening, even though it is a difficult and complicated meeting.
Would you be open to doing a sequel?
Yeah, totally. I think if the people demand it.
What do you hope this new generation of viewers, and also original Craft viewers, get out of The Craft: Legacy?
It's such a devastatingly bleak time in the world, and I hope that it can inspire not just young women, but I think everyone to feel emboldened in their singularity. And that we are all the more powerful when we can celebrate that singularity in community. There are a lot of oppressive systems to dismantle, but if we take them on from all sides and together, hopefully we can create a new and better world.
The Craft: Legacy is out now on demand.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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