Max was almost played by Leonardo DiCaprio

Before Omri Katz was cast as Hocus Pocus’ lead teen Max, a young Leonardo DiCaprio was the first choice, and Disney tried very hard to convince him to take it. DiCaprio was reportedly offered “more money than [he] ever dreamed of” to take on the role. DiCaprio eventually turned it down to make What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which earned him his first Oscar nomination.

Bette Midler was fed a constant supply of old-fashioned curse words by two assistants

Bette Midler plays Winifred Sanderson, the leader of the trio of Sanderson witches, who uses a lot of obscure expletives to vent her frustration. Most of these were improvised by Midler, who made efforts to ensure her swearing was completely period-accurate to the late 1600s, when the Sandersons originally lived. Midler had two assistants on set equipped with dictionaries of archaic curse words for reference.

Rosie O’Donnell turned down the chance to play Mary Sanderson because she thought the role was too dark

Initially, Rosie O’Donnell was approached to play Mary Sanderson, but she turned it down due to not feeling comfortable playing a character that canonically killed children. The role eventually went to Kathy Najimy, but she was hesitant to accept at first too, because she didn’t want to offend any real-life witches with her portrayal.

The choreographer went driving with the ‘witches’ take help figure out how they’d ride a broomstick

Choreographer Peggy Holmes had an interesting approach to teaching the witch actresses how to ride their broomsticks. Holmes accompanied Midler, Parker and Najimy on car journeys to observe how they drove. As quirky as this might seem, the research paid off, as Holmes helped all three of the actresses develop a completely different, unique ‘flying’ style.

The actor playing human Binx had all his lines dubbed

Thackery Binx – the 17th century teen turned by the witches into an immortal cat – is portrayed in the early scenes by young actor Sean Murray. However, Murray had a southern accent, which didn’t work for the film’s setting of Salem. Jason Marsden was chosen to voice Binx instead, which meant that as well as providing the cat’s vocals, he had to dub over Murray’s lines.

Sarah Jessica Parker’s ancestor really was accused of witchcraft

When Sarah Jessica Parker accepted the role of witch Sarah Sanderson, she had no idea she had an ancestor – her ten-time great-grandmother Esther Elwell – was accused of witchcraft. Parker learned this appearing on the family history show Who Do You Think You Are? and said the revelation “changed everything about who I thought I was.” Luckily, Elwell’s case never went to trial.

Nine different cats play Binx

As well as a puppet, nine real cats were used to portray Binx. Each had a different skill or speciality: one cat was good at jumping, one at pawing and batting at things, and there was even one cat whose speciality was napping. To win over each cat, actors Omri Katz, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw had to spoil all nine of them with treats.

Doug Jones had to keep real moths in his mouth

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Prolific creature actor Doug Jones got one of his earliest roles in Hocus Pocus as the zombie Billy Butcherson. For one scene, he had to hold real, live moths in his mouth, which were stopped from going down his throat by a dental dam, until he could comedically burp them up. As scary as it might sound, Jones was apparently completely unbothered by the sensation.

The screenwriter created the film as a bedtime story for his kids

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Hocus Pocus producer David Kirschner originally dreamed up Hocus Pocus as a bedtime story for his children around Halloween. Kirschner’s aim was to tell a story that wouldn’t be too scary for them, but that would also keep them excited and entertained. Eventually he teamed up with screenwriter Mick Garris to fully round out the story. Nick Cuthbert also worked on the final script.

Kathy Najimy was a complete Bette Midler fangirl on-set

Kathy Najimy had previously met Bette Midler twice before just as a fan, so getting the chance to work with her hero was probably pretty surreal. Both times Najimy met Midler, it involved Najimy sneaking backstage after a concert to say hello. One time, Najimy was even dressed as a singing bunny telegram, though she has never revealed the reason behind that bizarre costume.

Jodie-Amy Rivera grew up to be a famous YouTuber

Jodie-Amy Rivera plays Emily Binx in Hocus Pocus, the younger sister of the ghost/cat Thackery Binx. While Rivera didn’t go on to many more major acting roles, she found fame in a different way: on YouTube, making videos under the username VenetianPrincess. Though her channel is largely inactive today, her 96 videos have clocked up over 350 million views.

The whole cast took a trip to Salem to bond

To create the spooky but festive atmosphere needed for the film, the cast all journeyed together to the real Salem, Massachusetts, famous for being the location of the Salem witch trials, provided the perfect Halloween-ey vibes for the cast to enjoy. Not much information is available about what the cast got up to, but it probably involved a lot of seasonal activities.

‘Satan’ is played by the creator of Happy Days

When the Sandersons meet ‘Satan,’ he’s portrayed by Garry Marshall, creator of sitcom Happy Days and director of such hit movies as Pretty Woman, Overboard and earlier Bette Midler hit Beaches. To make things weirder, the wife of ‘Satan’ is played by Marshall’s real-life sister, Penny Marshall, also famed as the director of acclaimed hits including Big and A League of Their Own.

Sarah Jessica Parker loved ‘flying’ so much that she stayed on her broom between takes

Movie flying scenes typically involve actors being put in harnesses in front of green screens. We might imagine that gets uncomfortable, but Sarah Jessica Parker has gone on record to say that she found her broomstick scenes completely exhilarating, thanks in part to her harness being exceptionally comfortable. She often would ask to stay in it between takes, rather than be lowered down.

The Sanderson sisters were named after real women accused of witchcraft

While the Sanderson sisters are fictional characters, two of them are named after real women accused of witches. Winifred and Mary take their names from Winifred Benham and Mary Hale, the two last women to be accused of being witches in New England all the way back in 1697.

Doug Jones asked if he could tone down the cursing

Credit: Dia Dipasupil via Getty

When Billy Butcherson finally breaks the stitching on his mouth and hurls insults at the witches, it was originally scripted for him to call Winifred Sanderson a “b**ch.” Actor Doug Jones thought the phrase would be both too crass and potentially anachronistic, so he changed the insult to the milder and more period-appropriate “wench.”

Several scenes were cut from the theatrical version of the movie

Several scenes shot for Hocus Pocus didn’t make the final cut. Originally, the chase through the school was longer, culminating in Winifred being thrown into the swimming pool. There was also a moment when the three sisters were held up by trick or treaters, plus a moment when Mary interrupted her own hanging to ask if she had “left the cauldron burning.”

The movie references Charles Rocket’s (Max’s dad) most embarrassing moment

Max and Dani’s dad is played by Charles Rocket, a former cast member on TV’s Saturday Night Live who achieved notoriety in 1981 for accidentally dropping the F-bomb live on air (a serious no-no at the time). Hocus Pocus included a joking reference to the moment, with Rocket asking Max how school was. Max replies “it sucked,” to which Rocket immediately yells “watch your language!”

Bette Midler snuck in a reference to her most famous role

In the musical Gypsy, Midler’s character Mama Rose declares, “Hello everybody! My name’s Rose! What’s yours?” Hocus Pocus features a homage to this classic line, when Winifred tells the audience at the Halloween party, “Hello Salem! My name’s Winifred! What’s yours?” The line comes just before her performance of I Put a Spell on You, in which Winifred channels some serious Mama Rose energy.

The film was shot in the same neighborhood as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Bewitched

The idyllic neighborhood where Hocus Pocus was shot is a studio set that has been used in many famous movies and shows, including TV’s Bewitched and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A fountain seen in the film would soon become famous for featuring in the opening credits of Friends, and six years later Thora Birch would return to the neighborhood to shoot American Beauty.