Doug Jones sheds light on what his original line in Hocus Pocus really was. The 1993 Disney cult classic, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, has become a Halloween staple for generations and recently returned with the long awaited sequel Hocus Pocus 2. The story of the Sanderson sisters picks up twenty-nine years after that fateful Halloween night back in 1993 when teenager Max (Omri Katz), his sister Dani (Thora Birch), and love interest Allison (Vinessa Shaw) faced the all-powerful witches.
In Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson sisters return after Max foolishly lights the Black Flame Candle, thus allowing the witches to terrorize Salem. The Sandersons set their sights on the three kids, and, to gain the upper hand, Winifred (Midler) resurrects her deceased lover, Billy Butcherson (Jones), and instructs him to go after them. Billy’s mouth is sewn shut, and his decayed appearance leads Max and the rest to believe he’s an enemy just like the Sandersons. However, the end of Hocus Pocus gives Billy some freedom as his mouth is torn open, and he quickly takes the opportunity to yell at Winifred.
Jones, who just reprised his role as Billy in Hocus Pocus 2, reflects on the making of the first film in a new interview with Collider. Looking back on his big moment when Billy is allowed to speak, Jones recalls what the line was originally supposed to be. It wasn’t quite as family-friendly as the one in the finished product, so Jones advocated for changing it. He says:
Right. When I auditioned for the movie, he had one word in the original script. Once I finally cut my mouth open, I was supposed to look up at Bette Midler, floating in the sky, with Max in one arm, and grab his knife and cut my mouth open. It was supposed to look very threatening because Winifred was yelling, “Kill him! Get him!” And instead of ending little Max’s life, I yell at Bette Midler. The original script wanted me just to yell, “Bitch!,” at her, which was funny. But by the same token, I was thinking, “This is a Disney kids’ film. I really wanna let the kids know that I’m on their side, and not the witches side. Wouldn’t a roil up of emotion from 300 years of sitting on it, be a funnier thing and more family friendly?” So, I pitched that idea to our director, Kenny Ortega, and he was like, “I love it!”
And so, that’s why that line came out of me and stayed in the movie. He goes, “Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed, mop-riding firefly from hell!” And then, I look at little Max and say, “I’ve waited centuries to say that.” And then, he ad-libbed back, “Well, say whatever you want Billy, just don’t breathe on me,” because my breath must have been hideous. It created a moment in the film that I think was way more fun. You can do that in comedies. You can try things out until you find the funny and you find what clicks. Hocus Pocus was full of a lot of that. The script rewrites came at a fast pace, but all to better the film.
Doug Jones Made The Right Call Keeping The Movie Disney-Friendly
Ultimately, both Hocus Pocus movies remained very kid-friendly. Though the original film features some frightening moments – particularly thanks to Billy himself – it’s a very tame Halloween movie that is now rewatched by families every year. Jones’ insistence that Hocus Pocus remain a kid-friendly flick was therefore the right choice. While one bad word likely wouldn’t have altered the film’s legacy too much, the alternate line fits the overall tone much better. It keeps with Hocus Pocus‘ themes of good versus evil, and it makes for a far funnier exchange.
Jones’ suggestion to change that one-word line made that scene such an iconic moment in Hocus Pocus that it is always remembered by fans worldwide. Billy’s single line became far more distinctive, and thus even better for quoting possibilities. Half the fun in Hocus Pocus is cheering on Billy Butcherson and the rest of the gang against the witches, and Jones’ final line suggestion made for an even more satisfying moment of triumph.