15 Wicked Facts About The Making Of Our Favorite Witch Movies

By:
The Craft

Columbia Pictures

From the movie that used real creepy crawlies to the behind-the-scenes Mr. Bean incident on the set of The Witches, here are some wild and wicked facts about the making of some of our favorite witch movies.

The Witches: Was Originally Even Scarier

Warner Bros.

The 1990 movie based on Roald Dahl’s famous story about women who don’t like children would’ve featured more disturbing scenes, if it weren’t for director Nicolas Roeg’s kid. “I remember running some rushes from The Witches at home on VHS,” Roeg wrote in his memoir, The World Is Ever Changing. “And one of my young sons started watching it and then ran round and sat behind the television set,” leading Roeg to edit out “a lot of stuff that was quite extraordinary” to make the film, uh, a little less scary.

The Craft: The 1996 Movie Totally Used Real Critters

Columbia Pictures

Yep, those scenes with the snakes and the rats and whatnot were all filmed using real animals (eeeek!). Andrew Fleming, the director of the cult classic, wanted his movie about '90s teenage witches who listen to Jewel and Our Lady Peace to look authentic. He not only used real live animals in those horrifying scenes, but he also hired a real Wiccan to consult on the movie.

Hocus Pocus: Those Moths Were Real, Too

Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) is the zombie character whose mouth is sewn shut. In the scene where he cuts his mouth open and we see a bunch of moths fly out … yeah, those were real. 

FX master Tony Gardner said that they built a “mouth rig” for Jones that was essentially “a latex pocket attached between upper and lower dentures which completely blocked Doug Jones’ throat. There was a small hole in the very back of the pocket so that Doug could cough some air through it and force the fuller’s earth and the mouths up and out of his mouth. Once the pocket was loaded with the Fuller’s earth, an animal wrangler would place several moths in the pocket with tweezers, under the supervision of a representative from the Humane Society. Then the stitches would be glued shut, and we’d run out of frame so that they could get to the shot as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it took a few takes to get this just right, but Doug was a real trouper! Those moths gave it their all as well.” 

Ah, the horrifying pre-CGI days.

Practical Magic: The Witch That Reportedly Sued Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Director Griffin Dunne said they hired a real witch consultant to add to the film’s witchiness, but the woman apparently wanted film rights and more money and a cookbook, even, and when the studio didn’t budge, she started speaking in tongues over the phone — supposedly “cursing” them — before serving them papers. The studio was so freaked out by the recorded phone call that, according to Dunne, they just paid her off to be rid of her.

The Wizard of Oz: That Time The Wicked Witch Of The West Caught On Fire

Loew's, Inc

In the scene where our green witch disappears into a puff of smoke, the crew reportedly did not wait for actress Margaret Hamilton to exit the set safely before starting a fire, causing the flames to lick both her broom and her hat, “scalding her chin, the bridge of her nose, her right cheek, and the right side of her forehead. The eyelashes and eyebrow on her right eye had been burned off; her upper lip and eyelid were badly burned.” It took her a full six weeks to recover — the skin was burned off on her hand — and worst of all, the studio didn’t seem to give a hoot about her injuries.

The Witches Of Eastwick: Susan Sarandon Says Cher Stole Her Role

Warner Bros.

According to Sarandon, she was initially up for the role of Alex before Cher snapped it from under her nose. Screenwriter Michael Cristofer said that “Cher sort of muscled her way into that part," and Sarandon explained, “That’s Jon (the producer) … he and Cher had a past liaison or something, so that was another element.” Sarandon only found out that her part had been switched when she got to L.A., and she had to suddenly (and quickly) learn to play the cello: “They said they would sue me if I left, so I didn’t have much choice!”

The Witch: Everything Was Built From Scratch

Universal Pictures

Director Robert Eggers had a thatcher fly in from Virginia and brought a carpenter from Massachusetts to the film's location in Canada to recreate a first-period farm plot, from scratch, on a tight budget.

The Witches: A Mr. Bean Incident

Warner Bros.

Rowan Atkinson — who played the hotel manager in the 1990 film — left his bathroom taps running in his room at the Headland Hotel where the movie was filmed. The flood damaged much of the production’s electrical equipment on the floor below, and when a porter came knocking on Atkinson's door, he was reportedly told, “Go away, I’m asleep.”

Suspiria: Practical Effects

Amazon Studios

A lot of the 2018 movie relied on practical effects instead of CG intervention, and according to director Luca Guadagnino, that broken body dance scene was 85% practical effects, thanks to actress and dancer Elena Fokina being a contortionist. 

Gretel & Hansel: About That Sausage Scene

United Artists Releasing

In one horrific scene, the witch chews on a piece of sausage, only to pull out a long strand of hair with a bow tied at the end. Director Oz Perkins said that it was all done in one take with no cuts or edits, and that the hair and bow was wrapped in a breakable plastic bag, then placed under actress Alice Krige’s tongue. "God knows how they fit all that in there," Perkins commented.

The Blair Witch Project: The Film Felt So Real Because It Was Pretty Real

Artisan Entertainment

Not only were the actors dumped in the middle of the woods without a script and only clues as to where they should go and what they should improvise, but things got so tense between the small cast that they had to come up with a safe word to know when they were being their characters, and when they weren't.

Actor Joshua Leonard explained: “Tensions got high, we got hungry, we got uncomfortable and we hurt each other’s feelings … At the time, I felt bad about my final attack on Heather – when I turn the camera on her and yell at her about what her motivation is. It was me, expressing frustration as both a character and an actor, but it worked on another level: the idea of us all as performers. The film was inadvertently prescient about the idea of 15 minutes of fame.”

Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness: That Apple Blossom Orchard Was Fake

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Or at least, the actual blossoms were. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shooting schedule had to change, and they ended up shooting in an orchard that wasn’t in bloom yet. The crew ended up tying fake blossoms all over the trees to make it look, well, blossoming. 

You Won’t Be Alone: The First Draft Was Written In Five Days

Universal Pictures

The new 2022 film about a witch getting to live in different people’s bodies came out writer/director Goran Stolevksi’s mind in just five days, in two different languages. “There was a Macedonian story workshop announced and I'm from Macedonia. And I thought I'd write something to submit to that, just use that as a deadline,” he said. “It was like five days away, the deadline at the time. I had to write a story really quickly in two different languages.”

Hocus Pocus 2: The Movie Was Almost A Remake And Not A Sequel

Disney+

Disney was initially keen on doing a total remake of the movie and taking it into a brand new direction, but the original movie’s director Kenny Ortega disagreed, saying that they had to bring back the Sanderson Sisters, and not just in a cameo kind of way. “ I would like to see a sequel, and I think that the fans would like to see a sequel. I think it would be much more fun to bring the ladies back. They’re all still vital and in their prime and capable of doing so much that it would be great to see Bette and Kathy and Sarah come back together to do another movie, and I think they would like to.”

Apparently, the House of Mouse listened, and probably for the better because imagine how we’d groan hearing absolutely anyone else yell “Amok amok amok!”

Thumbnail: Disney+, Warner Bros.

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