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'Practical Magic' Was Cursed By (Practically) A Real Witch

By Tori Preston | Industry | October 26, 2017 |

By Tori Preston | Industry | October 26, 2017 |

Look, there have been all sorts of dirty, dark secrets coming out of Hollywood lately. So it’s almost a relief to hear about a 20-year-old lawsuit that DIDN’T involve harassment. Unless you count menacing voicemails and literal cursing from an goddamn witch “harassment.”

In an interview with Vulture, director Griffin Dunne reflects on his 1998 witch sister flick Practical Magic, based on the novel by Alice Hoffman and starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Over the years it has become a sort of beloved cult classic, though it was considered a failure when it was released (it’s only got a 46 rating on Metacritic). It also was the last film Dunne directed to be released by a major studio. But is a witch curse to blame?

Maybe! Turns out they hired a “witch consultant” to help them conceptualize the magical elements of the script, to keep it rooted in actual tradition. She was well paid, and Dunne wanted to fly her out to watch the rehearsals too because he liked her. And then things got spooky …

I had my producer make her a reservation at a nice hotel, and call her, and the witch goes, “You’re not going to buy me off with a hotel room. I want a percentage of the movie. I’m going to have my own Practical Magic cookbook.” She was paid quite well, and she says, “I want an additional $250,000 dollars.” The producer told her that’s just not possible. And she goes crazy and scares the shit out of the producer.

What did she say?

She says, “I’m going to put a curse on you. I’m putting a curse on this movie, and I’m putting a curse on Griffin.” So the producer comes back to my rehearsal, white as a ghost, and she tells me, “That call did not go well. She’s really really angry.” I had no idea quite what happened, so I get back to my office on the Warner Bros. lot and I listen to my voice-mail. [Drops voice to a growl.] “How dare you sic that shrew on me? You think you can buy me off, well let me tell you something? There is a land of curses!” And then she slips into tongues. It was terrifying. I listened to as much as I could and then I hung up. Within minutes, Warner’s been served with papers. She’s suing Warner Bros.

In the end, the Warner Bros. legal department paid the witch off just to be done with all the weirdness, and the experience ended up influencing a line in the film: “Curses only have power when you believe them.” Still, that feeling of ill will was strong enough for Dunne to bring in ANOTHER New Agey person to perform some sort of exorcism with “chants and smoke and shit.” Oh, Hollywood.

Also, for anyone still ogling the Owens’ kitchen — you can hire the production designer to do your interior design!

Ben Stiller and his wife were so taken with the design in the movie, they asked if Robin [the production designer] would remodel their home. That’s what she does now —- interior designs for homes for a very high-profile clientele. And a lot of it came from that movie.

Honestly if I had a kitchen like that, I’d stay up for midnight margaritas EVERY DAMN NIGHT:

Tori Preston is the managing editor of Pajiba. She tweets here. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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