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Who Dares To Argue With Mindhole Blowers?: 'The Witches' Edition

By Jodi Smith | Industry | January 16, 2019 |

By Jodi Smith | Industry | January 16, 2019 |


When it was announced that director Robert Zemeckis, fresh off his box office failure Welcome to Marwen, is remaking 1990 classic The Witches, every child that watched the original fell to their knees. Surely there was no need for this, as the critically acclaimed, 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (box office failure) movie we know and love is perfect.

Based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, the flick follows nine-year-old Luke (Jasen Fisher) after he stumbles upon a coven of witches planning to turn the world’s children into mice through the use of a potion and sweet shops.

We all remember Anjelica Huston’s portrayal of the Grand High Witch as a terrifying part of our childhood. When the entire room full of witches pulled off their faces and let their true forms free, every one of us peed our pants a little.

The remake, said to hew more closely to the source material somehow, has cast Anne Hathaway in the role originated by Huston. Reportedly, Viola Davis also has an interest in a role, making it seem that much more tempting.

If you’ll remember, being tempted by deliciousness, like seeing Davis and Hathaway as witches, is how Bruno Jenkins (Charlie Potter) got himself transformed into a mouse in the first place.

Let us all take this time to learn about the original movie, directed by Nicolas Roeg, while we keep our human faces on until we can judge the remake.

1. Roald Dahl hated the adaptation of his book. According to the BBC, the author loathed every movie based on his stories, but described The Witches as “utterly appalling.” He also threatened to remove his name from the film due to scenes he felt were in poor taste and genuinely scary.

2. Huston was not the first choice to play the role of Grand High Witch. Among the other actresses considered were Cher, Susan Sarandon, Liza Minelli, Eartha Kitt, Jodie Foster, Frances Conroy, Sigourney Weaves, and Linda Blair. Dahl was pleased with Huston’s casting.

3. Huston appeared in Michael Jackson’s epic collaboration with Disney, Captain EO, in the role of The Supreme Leader. The character in the 17-minutes-long, $23 million cult hit required three hours of makeup for Huston. When The Witches offer came to her, she nearly passed due to concerns about enduring another stressful makeup application and the headaches that come with it. In the end, she spent 2 to 3 weeks in the witch makeup, taking up to seven hours to apply and another five to remove.

4. The book differs from the film in three key ways. The main character and his grandmother have no names in the book, known only as Narrator and Grandma. The narrator is never turned back into a mouse in Dahl’s story, with the boy saying: “I’ll be a very old mouse and you’ll be a very old grandmother and soon after that we’ll both die together.” The movie added in Miss Irvine, allowing her to change her witchy ways and pave the way for the happy ending.

5. This was the last film Jim Henson personally oversaw prior to his death in May of 1990.

6. Henson had two endings filmed: one keeping with Dahl’s ending and the one we know today. Audiences chose the movie’s eventual closing scenes, going against Henson’s thoughts on the matter. It also ticked off Dahl.

7. Director Roeg attempted to make the film less frightening after watching dailies at home with his son. After his child hid behind the television in terror, Roeg removed some of the more gruesome parts. He also decided to make Huston’s character very sexy to make up for the cut horrors.

Sources: IMDB, Mental Floss, Screen Rant.

Jodi Smith is a Senior Reporter, Film & Television at Pajiba. You can email her or follow her on Twitter.

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