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SYFY WIRE Hocus Pocus

The returning stars of 'Hocus Pocus 2' on finding the Sanderson Sisters again, chances of a third film

The Sanderson sisters are finally back. 

By Matthew Jackson
Hocus Pocus 2

It's been almost 30 years since the Sanderson Sisters rampaged through Salem again, but the long wait for Hocus Pocus 2 wasn't for lack of trying. Hocus Pocus star Bette Midler worked for years to get Disney interested in a sequel as the original film became a Halloween staple, and her lobbying finally paid off. Now, the Sanderson Sisters are back, and this time, they've got a lot more input from the actresses who brought them to life.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 stars Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy explained how they were involved in crafting the story for the new film from the beginning, having magical meetings of their own with the support of director Anne Fletcher to figure out where Winifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson would go this time. 

"Anne was so great. She said, 'You guys created these characters, you know how they talk and what they do or don't do,'" Midler explained. "When the first draft came in, we sent it back with [character] notes and suggestions, and they interpolated them into the script. As it went on, if there were lapses in logic, we'd bring it to their attention, but it was more about how the characters speak."

Najimy added, "They sent us story ideas, then Sarah, Bette, and I would have phone meetings with lots of snacks, and we'd talk over narratives and character arcs. We were able to give them our two cents, and what the writer and studio came up with was difficult, because you can't take something that was so successful and stray too far from it. The first one had something delicious about it, but you also want to make something new. With a little bit of our input, the writer's input, and Disney's, we came up with something that's current and fun."

With Fletcher and screenwriter Jen D'Angelo, the film's stars all arrived at a script they liked, which follows the sisters as they return to a 30-years-later version of Salem where awareness of the witches and their exploits has shifted, and a trio of potentially magical teenagers (Whitney Peak, Lilia Buckingham, and Belissa Escobedo) will have to work together to once again banish the sisters from the mortal world. Then, it was time to travel to Rhode Island to shoot the film, which meant the three stars had to find their characters all over again. That included getting the voices right, but also some slightly stranger new details. 

"You'll see that Mary's mouth is now on the other side," Najimy said. "We can justify it because there's a scene at the beginning where Winnie slaps me, and my mouth goes to the other side, and then she slaps me again and it goes to the other side, and sticks. It's on the other side mainly because it's so hard for me to do it on the side I did it on 30 years ago. I'm sure the fans are going to go into deep detail about why it's on the other side. It's just something I came up with the first week. This is a big comedy, so you don't have to be subtle or have a 40-page Shakespearean backstory."

Which isn't to say there won't be backstory in Hocus Pocus 2. In crafting the sequel, the creative team wanted to spend a little more time delving into why the Sandersons became such legendary beings of evil in the first place, as well as what they've spent the last 30 years doing. That means the film will tell a new story, but it will also fill viewers in on the lore of the Sandersons and their version of Salem. 

"[We] explain how they got to the point where they gladly become witches," Midler said. "They're so tight as sisters, and that's explained. It's quite satisfying."

It took almost three decades, but Hocus Pocus 2 is finally almost here. So, now that Midler has managed to convince Disney that the story is worth revisiting, does that mean Hocus Pocus 3 is around the corner? No one knows for sure, but Midler certainly has some thoughts about franchises. 

"I don't know. I'm envious of other actors who have franchises, and I was hoping for a sequel to First Wives Club, but we never got that," she said. "After 30 years with no sequel to Hocus Pocus, I've always been envious of people who get to do their favorite character more than once. The fact that we got to do this finally, after 30 years of promoting the idea, I'm glad we got to do it. I'd love to have a franchise — especially a character I love playing. If there was a third one, of course I'd sign on, but I don't know how. I can't imagine what the story would be, but I love Winifred, Sarah, Mary, and our relationship. It's good for women. We stick together through hell and high water, but we do cause mayhem, and not many women cause that much mayhem!"

Hocus Pocus 2 arrives Sept. 30 on Disney+. 

Looking for more ghostly action? Check out the first season SYFY's SurrealEstate in the SYFY app — and get ready — because the series is gearing up for a whole new season of scares and chills!