Wanna hear a scary story? Leonardo DiCaprio auditioned for the Halloween movie that made your childhood every October on the Disney Channel and he wasn't able to take the part! OOOoooooOOOO. That's right, DiCaprio was almost Max in 1993's Hocus Pocus at the age of 19, long before he was invading other people's dreams and sleeping in dead bears for warmth in order to win an Oscar.
In honor of 13 Nights of Halloween on Freeform (formerly ABC Family), Entertainment Weekly decided to chat with the film's director, Kenny Ortega (Michael Jackson's This Is It) and gleaned three new stories behind the production of the October 31 staple.
According to Ortega, the casting directors were talking up this young actor who he was going to love, but wasn't available. "We’re sending you an actor today but he’s not available but you’re going to fall in love with him but you can’t have him," Ortega said, paraphrasing what they told him. "I’m like, ‘Why are you teasing me?’ They were like, ‘You need to see this guy because he’ll inspire you and if nothing else, he’ll help you find the right guy to play Max.’ And they send me in a young Leonardo DiCaprio, who I completely and absolutely fall in love with. He’s just the most sincere and most centered and a wild child at the same time."
At the time, Leo was also up for parts in This Boy's Life with Robert De Niro and What's Eating Gilbert Grape? with Johnny Depp and he told Oretega so. "'I’m up for two other movies and I really want them both and I don’t want to lead you on,'" said Ortega, quoting the young DiCaprio who did go on to star in both of those movies that probably did better for his career than Hocus Pocus might have done.
The role of Max eventually went to Omri Katz whose acting career didn't take off quite as well as DiCaprio's did.
Hocus Pocus is about a group of kids attempting to stop three witch sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) who have been resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts after three hundred years. Despite not being either a commercial or critical success at the time, the film has become a cult favorite among the kids who grew up watching it on TV every year.