In a few days, it will be the 25th anniversary of the absolute best movie to watch in October – Practical Magic – which was released in the US on October 16, 1998. It stars Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, an early role for Evan Rachel Wood, and best of all – Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing as the fabulous aunts.
Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) are sisters, descended from a long line of witches. When Gilly’s abusive boyfriend Jimmy (Visnjic) kidnaps them, and is physically violent with them, Sally slips some belladonna into his tequila. Now with a dead body on their hands, they panic and try to resurrect him. It goes wrong, and he ends up possessing Gillian, leading to an exorcism.
Practical Magic is one of the best romance movies, but it contains a magical alchemy, balancing many different tones including comedy, while also being a dark thriller with the abusive boyfriend plotline – and that’s before we even get to the supernatural aspects. Director Griffin Dunne (best-known as an actor in Scorsese’s After Hours and American Werewolf in London) brought in a witch consultant for the movie, who ended up putting a curse on the production.
Speaking to Vanity Fair for the 25th anniversary of one of the best Halloween movies ever, Dunne explained; “It’s something I will talk about now, but at the time I would sort of deny it. I didn’t want the vibe. I hired a witch consultant to get the details of the [exorcism] ceremony. We got along great; she was very, very helpful.”
“Sandy and Nicole kept asking about her, ‘Oh, what did the witch say?’ before we started shooting. She was paid very handsomely by Warner Brothers for her consulting. I thought it would be fun to bring her out to Los Angeles, put her in a nice hotel and meet Sandy and Nicole, who were dying to meet her.”
“When the producer called, she was greatly offended, and wanted three gross points [from the film’s profit]. She wanted to publish a Practical Magic cookbook and said, ‘You can’t buy me off with a hotel.’ She left a curse in some sort of tongue on my voicemail – that was quite chilling, actually – and threatened to sue Warner Bros. So I took the recording and gave it to the legal department. They didn’t get halfway through it before they said, ‘Fuck this,’ and wrote her a check.” Turns out that Practical Magic was more of a horror movie behind the scenes than on-screen.
If you’re as excited for spooky season as we are, check out our guides to the best scary movies for kids and the best Disney Halloween movies. You can also see what we think are the best vampire movies and the best werewolf movies. We’re also eagerly anticipating Wednesday season 2.