You would think that a movie featuring two of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, would be a box office hit, but that was apparently not the case in the 90s.
When Practical Magic, a rom-com based on a 90s novel of the same, was released in 1998, the film was a total flop. The movie centers around two witch sisters living in a small town, trying to break a curse that threatens to prevent them from ever finding true love. It had everything it needed to become an instant cult classic, but the critics were not a fan.
An Entertainment Weekly review called the film ” so slapdash, plodding, and muddled it seems to have had a hex put on it.” However, something changed over the years, and Practical Magic was elevated to cult status.
“It’s an unexpected pleasure,” said Griffin Dunne, the movie’s director, who hasn’t directed a major theatrical release since Practical Magic.
When he was asked to share his thoughts on why the movie wasn’t a success, and how come his career stalled, Dunne had a very unexpected and superstitious answer that may even be more interesting than the movie itself.
During a recent interview with Vulture, Dunne revealed something about the movie that he has never talked about before.
He explained that when he began to adapt the script from the Alice Hoffman book, he sought the assistance of a witch consultant.
“While I was developing it, I was never quite sure I had a real handle on the movie because, quite honestly, witches had no great interest to me,” Dunne said. “But I loved the book and I liked the setting and when I was working with this witch consultant, it occurred to me that I was making a movie about something I do know a lot about — strong women. I grew up in a house with a strong mother and my grandmother.”
He continued, “So I had three generations of formidable women and when I got that into my head, I realized it’s not really about spells and spell books and all that — it’s about a legacy being passed from one generation to another. That helped me understand it, and that understanding came out of these conversations I had with this witch consultant.”
When the rehearsals for the film began, Dunne invited the witch consultant, whom he calls an “intelligent person,” to Los Angeles. He even paid for a nice hotel, so she could have a comfortable stay. However, the witch was not satisfied.
“‘You’re not going to buy me off with a hotel room. I want a percentage of the movie. I’m going to have my own Practical Magic cookbook,’” Dunne recalled. He added that the witch told a producer that she wanted “an additional $250,000.”
When her request was turned down, Dunne was the witch got angry and said “‘I’m going to put a curse on you. I’m putting a curse on this movie, and I’m putting a curse on Griffin.’”
But that wasn’t even the end of it.
Dunne later received multiple “terrifying” messages from the woman, warning him that “there is a land of curses.” She eventually sued Warner Brothers.
“So I give the legal department the tape and they can’t listen to it all the way through, either,” recalled Dunne.
He added that the company was so freaked out by her threats that they paid her off. “I don’t know how much, but enough to make her go away.”
We don’t blame them! That sounds scarier than the film’s plot.