Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.
Since its release, the cult classic film has since become a beloved staple around Halloween, and fans can’t get enough of the witchy Sanderson sisters. In honor of the film’s anniversary, let’s take a look at what the stars are up to now.
Bette Midler (Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson)
Then: Bette Midler played the buck-toothed ringleader of the Sanderson sisters, Winnie. She was domineering and demanding and was the driving force behind the trio. Her role as Winnie has since become iconic, but Midler's long list of achievements doesn't stop there. Prior to appearing in the 1993 film, the highly successful singer, songwriter, actress, and producer appeared in movies such as The Rose, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Beaches. Midler also had lucrative music and stage careers, having released Grammy-winning albums like The Divine Miss M, Some People's Lives, and the mega-successful 1988 cover of "Wind Beneath My Wings."
NOW: Midler's impressive resume has only gotten bigger since the release of Hocus Pocus. She has sold an astounding 30 million records, won a Golden Globe and Emmy Award, and most recently won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her 2017 performance in Hello, Dolly! The talented artist has appeared in 1996's First Wives Club, 2004's The Stepford Wives, and 2008's The Women. Midler's most recent album, It's The Girls was released in 2014 and debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.
Fun Fact: Before Winnie sings "I Put a Spell on You," she tells the audience, "Hello, my name's Winifred. What's yours?" This is a reference to a famous line from Gypsy, which Midler starred in the TV version of.
Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson)
Then: Sarah Jessica Parker portrayed the ditzy but beautiful Sarah Sanderson, who had the ability to entrance children with her siren-like singing. Prior to the film's release, she was an up-and-coming actress who appeared in films like Footloose (1984), Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1985), and the critically acclaimed Honeymoon in Vegas (1992). Parker also had Broadway experience, starring in The Innocents and Annie as a young girl and The Heidi Chronicles in 1989. The actress also had a highly-publicized relationship ship with fellow actor Robert Downy Jr. from 1984 to 1991.
Now: Since starring in the cult classic, Parker has kept very busy. In 1998, she was cast as the iconic Carrie Bradshaw in the beloved HBO hit series Sex and the City, for which she won two Emmy Awards. She also won an impressive four Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for her portrayal of the character. Parker reprised her role in two follow-up films. She has also appeared in movies such as The Family Stone, Failure to Launch, and Did You Hear About the Morgans? Since 2016, Parker has starred in the HBO drama Divorce.
Fun Fact: Throughout the film, Sarah's hair changes from curly to straight, just like Dorothy's hair did in The Wizard of Oz.
Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson)
Then: Prior to being cast as the dim-witted but devoted Mary Sanderson, who had a knack for smelling children, Kathy Najimy was just beginning her film career. She had minor roles in movies including The Hard Way, Soapdish, and Topsy and Bunker: The Cat Killers. Her most notable role was in 1992's Sister Act alongside Whoopi Goldberg, portraying another Sister Mary.
Now: Since starring as 1/3 the iconic trio, Najimy has found much success in Hollywood. From 1997 to 2010, she was the voice of Peggy Hill in King of the Hill and made appearances on the shows Ellen, Veronica's Closet, and Numbers. Najimy's film credits include Hope Floats, Rat Race, WALLE-E, and A Madea Family Christmas.
Fun Fact: Before appearing in Hocus Pocus, Najimy was a huge Bette Midler fan and even snuck backstage at two of her concerts in order to try and meet her. She even dressed up as a bunny for a singing telegram!
Omri Katz (Maximilian "Max" Dennison)
Then: Omri Katz starred as Max Dennison, the virgin who lit the flame and brought the Sanderson sisters back to life. Prior to being cast in the role, Katz starred on Dallas from 1983 to 1991 as John Ross Ewing III. He also appeared as the lead in the short-lived NBC series Eerie, Indiana, and alongside John Goodman in 1993's Matinee.
NOW: Since appearing in the beloved Halloween film, Katz took a step away from Hollywood. He returned to his Dallas roots in 1996 in the TV movie Dallas: J.R. Returns. Aside from a few small parts in shows like Freaks and Geeks, Journey Into the Night, and General Hospital, the actor has not acted. Katz reunited with his fellow cast members in 2013 in honor of the film's 20th anniversary. He now works as a hairdresser in Los Angeles.
Fun Fact: The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio, but he turned it down in favor of starring in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Thora Birch (Danielle "Dani" Dennison)
Then: Thora Birch starred as Max's spoiled 8-year-old sister who worships Halloween and looks up to her big brother. The actress made her film debut in 1988 in Purple People Eater. She would also star in the drama Paradise, All I Want For Christmas, and as the daughter of Harrison Ford in the spy thriller Patriot Games.
Now: Since appearing in the film, Birch has gone on to have a lengthy film career. She played the younger version of Melanie Griffith's character in the coming-of-age film Now and Then (1995) and starred in the critically acclaimed American Beauty (1999). The movie went on to win a whopping five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 2001, Birch appeared in the black comedy film Ghost World. It would go on to become a cult film and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
The star also portrayed the titular character in 2003's Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story, for which she earned an Emmy award nomination. After taking a break from acting, Birch appeared in the TV show Colony and will appear in the upcoming film The Last Black Man in San Francisco.
Fun Fact: For the film's 20th-anniversary panel, the actress had expressed, "honestly the most fun I've ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus, I was 10, it's my favorite holiday anyway, and it doesn't get any better than that, really."
Vinessa Shaw (Allison Watts)
Then: Vinessa Shaw starred as Max's love interest and daughter of the woman who previously ran the Sanderson sisters museum. The actress only had two prior acting credits before being cast in the film. She starred in the 1981 slasher film Home Sweet Home, and later in the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield sports-comedy film Ladybugs.
Now: Shaw has gone on to have a successful acting career since the 1993 classic. She had a small yet important role in Stanley Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and the horror movie The Hills Have Eyes, which was a box-office success. The actress also had roles in 3:10 to Yuma, Garden Party, and Side Effects. Most recently, Shaw appeared in the Showtime series Ray Donovan and starred in 2018's Family Blood.
Fun Fact: There may have been a hidden message when the candle was lit by Max. The black flame candle can only be lit by a virgin, and when Max offered for Allison to light it, she coyly shook her head and declined.
Sean Murray (Thackery Binx)
Then: Sean Murray portrayed Thackery Binx, who was originally a teenager from 1693 who was transformed into a cat by the witches. His acting credits prior to the film include the comedy/western series Harts of the West opposite Beau Bridges, the TV movie Backfield in Motion, and the short film Too Romantic.
Now: Since 2003, Murray has starred as Timothy McGee on NCIS. His other film appearances include This Boy’s Life and Too Romantic. He also has a guest stint on the TV show JAG.
Fun Fact: Though Hocus Pocus is one of his most well-known roles, Murray’s voice in the film was actually dubbed over by fellow actor Jason Marsden.
Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson)
Then: The famous actor and contortionist Doug Jones played poor Billy Butcherson, the lover of Winnie who was caught cheating with Sarah and ultimately poisoned and killed. His mouth was sewn shut by the vengeful witch so that he would never reveal Winnie’s secrets. Before being cast. He appeared in CarHal Crimes and as Thin Clown in Batman Returns. Jones got his start as a television advertisement character/contortionist, Mac Tonight.
Now: Jones has gone on to have a successful career, appearing in films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Hellboy. Most recently, he appeared as Amphibian Man in the Academy Award-winning film The Shape of Water.
Fun Fact: The moths that flew out of Billy’s mouth were real, and were not actually computer-generated. Yikes!
Questions & Answers
Question: Who played the dad in Hocus Pocus?
Answer: Charles Rocket portrayed the dad, Dave Dennison. He was a member on Saturday Night Live from 1980-1981 and was known for films like Dumb and Dumberer and Titan A.E. He sadly passed away in 2005 from suicide.
© 2018 Rachel M Johnson
Rachel M Johnson (author) on October 21, 2018:
Hi Linda, Hocus Pocus has definitely become a favorite Halloween staple for many people!
Rachel M Johnson (author) on October 21, 2018:
Hi Katie, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the read!
LINDA on October 21, 2018:
I AM NOT A FAN OF HOLLOWEEN BUT I LOVE HCUS-POCUS AND CAN NOT WAIT TO RE-WATCH IT EVERY YEAR. I AM NOT A CHILD OR A YOUNG PERSON, I AM 68.
Katie Luense from Buffalo, NY on October 20, 2018:
Awesome Article! Thanks for the update!