Hocus Pocus is arguably the greatest Halloween movie of all time — including John Carpenter’s slasher classic, which is both set on and named after the holiday. Released all the way back in 1993, the film just seems to get better and better with age. So much so, in fact, that there’s a TV station dedicated to playing just it all day on Halloween each year. Watching the same movie over and over for 24 hours straight seems like a chore, but Hocus Pocus isn’t just any movie.
Unlike eighties classics like Ghostbusters or Back to the Future, Kenny Ortega’s festive flick is beloved by a predominantly female audience. This is mostly down to its three bad-ass female leads. Also, crucially, the Sanderson sisters are never out-and-out villains, which makes their lovable characters burn even brighter in our memories. The years have been kind to Hocus Pocus. Have they treated its wonderful cast as well?
Omri Katz (Max)
Hollywood, aka Max Dennison, is the dreamy, er, virginal lead of Hocus Pocus. He sets everything in motion on that fateful night, in a bid to impress his crush, but Max thankfully doesn’t let his Californian, laid-back, tie-dyed point of view stop him from saving the day. Funnily enough, actor Omri Katz, who didn’t grow up to be quite as dreamy as Max (sorry, Omri), was actually the most well-known of all the kids prior to shooting the movie.
His career stalled in the aftermath, however, with his last role to date (at the time of writing) in 2002 short movie Journey Into Night. Katz worked frequently in the years prior to Hocus Pocus, though; his IMDb is loaded with parts in the likes of General Hospital, The John Larroquette Show, and even beloved high school dramedy Freaks and Geeks, which launched the careers of James Franco and Seth Rogen, among others. Katz reunited with Hocus Pocus co-stars Thora Birch (Dani) and Vinessa Shaw (Allison) back in 2015, documenting the heartwarming results on Instagram (naturally, their meetup took place on Halloween).
Vinessa Shaw (Allison)
Vinessa Shaw had already made a name for herself prior to stealing Max’s heart in Hocus Pocus (she was one of the Ladybugs!) but the spooky family film was her big break. Shaw told Express in the U.K. that fans still frequently call her Allison but, "thankfully, they keep the ‘Yabbos’ comment to themselves." Shaw has enjoyed a lengthy and varied career, appearing in horror remake The Hills Have Eyes, western remake 3:10 To Yuma opposite Russell Crowe, as well as a recurring role in hit TV series Ray Donovan.
The actress often posts throwbacks to Hocus Pocus on her Instagram, and even joked that she should have used a meme of the three witches to announce her pregnancy. On the movie’s staying power, she told Express, "I don’t think any of us had any idea of the magnitude of how popular it would be. It just goes to show that when you are young you watch things over and over again and it gets in your head, and just sticks."
Thora Birch (Dani)
Thora Birch was just 11 when she appeared in Hocus Pocus. Her career launched into the stratosphere afterwards, with the young actress landing parts in diverse projects ranging from Brit cult horror The Hole alongside a then-virtually-unknown Keira Knightley, to Oscar-winning drama American Beauty. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however, as a 2014 sit-down with The Guardian made uncomfortably clear.
When it’s suggested Birch stepped out of the spotlight, the actress snaps, "I didn’t step back. I was always working, it’s just that no one was paying attention." The precise reasons for Birch’s career shift remain unclear, but there have been rumors that her father and sometime-manager, Jack Birch, interfered with her career and may have even been a bullying presence onset (something that is also touched on in the Guardian piece).
Still, a cursory glance at Birch’s IMDb page confirms that, thankfully, Hollywood isn’t done with her just yet. She even has a couple producer credits to her name, signalling a desire to take more control of her career.
Sean Murray (Thackery Binx)
Thackery Binx, thou mangy feline, is still alive and working extensively in Hollywood. Actor Sean Murray has appeared in several notable TV shows over the years, including ER and JAG. His most high profile role, however, is cyber security expert Timothy McGee in hit show NCIS.
Murray was an interesting addition to Hocus Pocus because he’s a cat (voiced by another actor!) for most of the movie. In a cast reunion, ABC News noted that actress Thora Birch, who played Dani, didn’t have the best time with the cats onset. "The thing with the cat was a toss-up. You never knew what would happen," she noted.
Murray remains joyous about his own time on the movie, telling the outlet, "It was the most amazing set I’ve ever seen, even ’til this day." The actor still has fans coming up to him, who recognize him as Binx, with Murray gushing about showing the movie to his own children once they were old enough to appreciate it.
Amanda Shepherd (Emily Binx)
Unlike everybody else on this list, Amanda Shepherd’s story isn’t straightforward. Cosmpolitan, discovered in a wide-ranging yet suitably lighthearted investigation that, for a while, Shepherd wasn’t even listed on the IMDb page for the movie. In her place was a young lady named Jodie-Amy Rivera. As a result, several "where are they now?" pieces sprang up, filling super-fans in on Rivera — but it was all a big mix-up. The YouTube star simply bore a striking resemblance to young Emily. And, as it turns out, Rivera was in Hocus Pocus, too, albeit in a very small role (she’s one of the spellbound "Come Little Children" kids).
Rivera eventually contacted the real Emily to set the record straight. Shepherd, a California real estate agent who gave up acting at 23, was gracious about the mix-up and even spoke to Cosmo about playing Emily. "It was all just a wonderful experience. To this day, it’s still wonderful every Halloween," she enthused, noting she still gets recognized sometimes. Like the rest of the cast, Shepherd never imagined the movie would become such a phenomenon.
Tobias Jelinek (Jay)
Bully Jay must have escaped from the Sanderson house at some stage ’cause the actor who played him, Tobias Jelinek, has enjoyed a healthy career since his hilarious turn in Hocus Pocus (which happened to be his feature debut). Jelinek has appeared in a variety of popular TV shows over the years including Netflix super-hit Stranger Things, Arrow, and Atlanta. He also appeared in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards’ American Woman.
Although Jelinek isn’t a big interview guy (not even for the movie’s 25th anniversary), Hocus Pocus is still clearly near and dear to his heart. He shared a sweet Instagram post comparing then and now pics of himself and buddy Larry Bagby (who played Ernie aka Ice) via an Entertainment Weekly piece on the reunion — naturally, neither of them has changed a bit. The two actors also hilariously posed in cages, alongside fellow teen star Vanessa Hudgens, for Freeform’s celebration of all things Halloween and Hocus Pocus.
Larry Bagby (Ernie "Ice")
His name ain’t Ernie no more, it’s Ice. Ice. Similar to his on-screen BFF, Larry Bagby has worked consistently since Hocus Pocus, even showing up as a bully (also named Larry, funnily enough) again on hit nineties horror show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Elsewhere, Bagby had a recurring role on legendary soap opera The Young and the Restless as well as appearing in Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line.
Bagby happily shares a ton of Hocus Pocus-based content on his Instagram, including a heartwarming reunion shot with fellow cast-members Omri Katz (who played Max) and Doug Jones (who played Billy Butcherson), and another which showed all the kids back together after 20 years, as grown-ups. Judging by co-star Tobias Jelinek’s page, the two are still pretty close all these years later, too. Bagby even freaks out over fan tattoos dedicated to his character and artwork designed in tribute to the movie. If there’s a cheerleader for Hocus Pocus, it’s, somewhat surprisingly, Ernie. Sorry, Ice.
Bette Midler (Winifred Sanderson)
Bette Midler’s delightfully unhinged performance as head witch Winifred Sanderson is also one of the legendary actress and singer’s favorite roles of her career. Midler even dressed up as Winnie again back in 2016, as gleefully noted by The Hollywood Reporter. Winifred flew once more in honor of the 21st anniversary of Midler’s charity, the New York Restoration project, at their annual Hulaween Party, which she hosts.
The following year, the entertainment icon was questioned by People about the long-mooted Hocus Pocus reboot and was only too happy to throw shade at it. The Disney Channel TV movie reportedly won’t include any of the original Sanderson sisters, nor director Kenny Ortega. "I know it’s cheap. It’s going to be cheap!" opined Midler at the 2017 event.
She also expressed doubt over who might take over the role she made famous, explaining, "I’m not sure what they’re going to do with my character. My character is very, very broad and I don’t know who they’re going to find to play that."
Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson)
Sarah Jessica Parker was already established when Hocus Pocus dropped, but nobody could’ve predicted just how huge she’d get. Parker, obviously, went on to become Sex and the City‘s Carrie, starring in six seasons of the hit show along with two spin-off movies.
Parker would consider starring in a Hocus Pocus sequel (the reboot was reportedly originally a remake) but, as she confessed in a 2015 interview with Buzzfeed, the actress hadn’t actually got around to watching the original movie since it came out. Considering that, by her own admission, Parker’s kids were dying to see it, that’s likely changed in the intervening years (we hope).
These days, aside from a still-busy acting career, the mother-of-three is also looking to take creative control by producing original content. As she told Red in a career-spanning interview, "I love producing because I love the collaboration with incredibly gifted people and seeing the process through from beginning to end."
Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson)
All three Sanderson sisters went on to have fabulous careers, and Kathy Najimy, who played the goofy but well-meaning Mary, was no different. She appeared in the likes of Younger, The Big C, and Veep, just to name a few. Much like the rest of the cast, Najimy has plenty to say about her time on Hocus Pocus, opening up to SyFy about how she got involved in the project and how obsessed she was with co-star Bette Midler.
Among the many tidbits the actress shares were how she came up with Mary’s crooked hair (it was supposed to look like the top of a pumpkin) and mouth, which Najimy explained was meant to make her look like a bloodhound, "so this sort of sniffy thing sort of happened (as she hunts down the children)." She also revealed that the movie was originally more witch-centric, and that she’d be open to a remake or sequel. We’ll see what Winifred has to say about that.
Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson)
Would you believe that Billy Butcherson was actually one of character (creature?) actor Doug Jones’ most human roles? Jones was hidden beneath layers of latex and accoutrements in virtually every film since — particularly for lifelong pal Guillermo Del Toro, in the likes of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. He finally came to the fore in 2017 as the Fishman in Oscar-winning fantasy romance The Shape of Water (again for Del Toro).
Buzzfeed tapped the performer for lots of amazing behind-the-scenes info from the Hocus Pocus set, including how his role was expanded based on the strength of his hilarious performance, and how he improvised his big moment calling out Winnie as a "bucktoothed, mop-riding, firefly from hell".
Anybody who found themselves weirdly attracted to Billy can rest easy, too, as Jones explained, "Kenny [Ortega, the director] kind of wanted Billy to be an attractive zombie… I hear that from people all the time who grew up with the movie. Their first movie crush was Billy Butcherson, often. It’s really kind of sweet and charming to hear that."