It's Just a Bunch of 'Hocus Pocus': Where the Women Behind the Witchy Sanderson Sisters Are Now
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker made the roles iconic classics that are still celebrated more than 25 years later.
With the holidays come the familiar comfort of routine and tradition. Christmas brings with it tree decorating and visits from Santa Claus. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without a turkey at the heart of a family dinner and a parade of everyone’s favorite inflatable characters.
And nothing screams Halloween quite like “Hocus Pocus.”
Sure, trick-or-treating and pumpkin picking are cornerstones of All Hallows’ Eve, but the 1993 cult classic is a comforting piece of nostalgia that makes the spooky season.
And what makes the movie is its characters, especially those of the Sanderson sisters, brought to life by a memorable cast of talented actors.
Bette Midler portrayed Winifred Sanderson, the leader of the witchy trio brought back to life after a skeptical virgin lit the Black Flame Candle on Halloween during a full moon.
The role is one of many the veteran entertainer made iconic during her illustrious career as an Academy Award-, Grammy-, Tony- and Golden Globe-winning actor, singer, songwriter, comedian and producer.
“Hello Salem! My name’s Winifred, what’s yours?” Midler sings during an iconic scene of the movie, a reference to her other big film in 1993, “Gypsy.”
She and her coven cohorts also took to the air on brooms (and a vacuum, in one instance) in the film, an experience she last year said was “one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced as an actor.”
“I’m going to go out on a broom, and say I enjoyed it more than anybody,” she said last year during Freeform’s “Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash.”
She would go on to star in movies including “The First Wives Club,” “That Old Feeling,” and “The Stepford Wives,” and make notable appearances on shows such as “Seinfeld” and “The Nanny.” More recently, she’s appeared on the “Murphy Brown” reboot and in Netflix’s “The Politician.”
Kathy Najimy played Mary Sanderson, the witch whose appetite for children was only matched by her eager desire to please her big sister Winifred.
That same year, Najimy reprised her role as a different kind of sister named Mary in “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” alongside Whoopi Goldberg. They’re just a few of the more than 100 credits Najimy has as an actor, having appeared in “The Wedding Planner,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Good Fight” and “Veep,” and voiced characters in shows such as “King of the Hill” and “BoJack Horseman.”
But for many, the movie they most closely associate with Najimy is “Hocus Pocus,” a fact she appreciates.
“For it to be embraced so wholly, and so rabidly, it’s flattering and it’s an honor,” Najimy said last year.
This year, Najimy will appear at a New York screening of the film and sit down for conversation to follow. And last month, she shared on Twitter the photo that graces “Hocus Pocus” DVD covers everywhere, writing: “You asked … You got. Happy ‘tis’ the season.’”
Sarah Jessica Parker played Sarah Sanderson, whose spellbinding singing lured children out of their homes and to her and her sisters’ cauldron.
“What I remember most is how awful we were as characters,” Parker said during last year’s special. “I was surprised that the goal was to get a child and basically destroy them, but because it was done in a really heightened, ridiculous way, it was a lot of fun.”
In 2010, Parker learned she had a connection to the real Salem Witch Trials, when during the filming of an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are,” she discovered her 10th-great grandmother was accused of practicing witchcraft.
The woman, Esther Elwell, was accused by a 17-year-old girl of being among “three spectres” pressing down on a woman who died, but Elwell escaped going to trial with the abolishment of prosecution for witchcraft.
Since her time portraying Sarah, the veteran actor has amassed a number of credits, including the life-changing role of Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City." She portrayed the character for six seasons and in two films.
Parker went on to star in several other movies, including “The Family Stone,” “Failure to Launch” and “Smart People,” before returning to television for HBO’s “Divorce.”
She and her husband of more than two decades Matthew Broderick will next year appear together in the Broadway show “The Plaza Suite.”
But like Najimy and Midler, Parker is often stopped by fans of “Hocus Pocus.”
“I don’t think any of us who were making it at the time thought ‘Hocus Pocus’ would have such a long life,” Parker has said. “People tell me all the time they grew up watching it, and that they still watch it. I think it’s wonderful.”
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