The Rumor That Leonard DiCaprio Was Supposed to Star in ‘Hocus Pocus’ Is Only Partially True

The Sanderson Sisters are synonymous with Halloween now, but back in 1993, Hocus Pocus, the film that featured the famed witches, wasn’t all that popular. All told, Hocus Pocus was not all that successful at the box office. Still, a lot went into the production of the flick, and casting reportedly took a while. In recent years, rumors have swirled that several A-listers were considered for roles in the movie. The most enduring of those rumors revolves around the role of Max. While eventually played by a young, unknown actor, Leonardo DiCaprio is said to have been initially up for the part. 

Rumor has it that Max was in ‘Hocus Pocus’ was almost played by Leonardo DiCaprio 

In recent years, a rumor has swirled that DiCaprio was seriously considered for the role of Max in Hocus Pocus. According to the legend, the part was his, if only he had wanted it. So, is the rumor true? Only partially. 

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award in January 2020
Leonardo DiCaprio | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for Turner

While it feels like DiCaprio has been in Hollywood forever, back in 1993, he was still a relatively green actor. He did meet with the team behind Hocus Pocus, but he was never seriously considering taking on the part. DiCaprio was already hopeful about a couple of other projects before he even discussed Hocus Pocus with anyone. 

Leonardo DiCaprio was never actually available for the movie

While legend has it that DiCaprio passed on the cult classic flick, that’s not entirely the case. DiCaprio couldn’t pass on the film because he wasn’t exactly available to take on the part of Max in the first place. Kenny Ortega, the director of Hocus Pocus, explained that a casting agent called him up one day and informed him that they would send over an actor to chat about the flick. The casting agent warned him that he wasn’t actually available, though. 

Ortega questioned exactly why he was meeting with an actor who was currently unavailable but took the meeting anyway. According to several interviews, casting agents sent DiCaprio to the studio to inspire Ortega. DiCaprio has a different recollection of the event, though. He told Variety that Disney offered him a ton of money (at the time) to take on the role of Max. He said he passed to hold out for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?. DiCaprio got the part he wanted, and the role of Max went to Omri Katz. Katz only worked intermittently after Hocus Pocus

Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t the only actor rumored to have passed on ‘Hocus Pocus’ 

The legend of DiCaprio’s potential involvement in Hocus Pocus persists even today. In fact, it’s a piece of trivia that is often passed around every Halloween, but he isn’t the only A-list actor who is rumored to have been connected to the film during its development. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker played the famed Sanderson Sisters. That casting seems perfect, but allegedly it almost looked much different. 

Bette Midler wearing a green and purple Winifred Sanderson costume
Bette Midler | Rebecca Smeyne/Getty Images

According to PHL17, Najimy only landed the part of Mary Sanderson after Rosie O’Donnell declined the job. It is also rumored that Jennifer Lopez was up for the part Sarah Sanderson. Parker ultimately landed the role. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the casting team briefly considered Cloris Leachman for the part of Winifred Sanderson. Midler famously portrayed Winifred.