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Why Leonardo DiCaprio Wasn’t Cast in ‘Hocus Pocus’: Insights from the Director

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio (Credits: NPR)

Hocus Pocus, a film that initially underperformed at the box office, has since evolved into a beloved Halloween season classic among millennials. While the movie boasts an ensemble cast that includes Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, it could have featured an entirely different headliner – none other than Leonardo DiCaprio.

The director, Kenny Ortega, revealed an intriguing tidbit about DiCaprio’s involvement with the film in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. DiCaprio had technically auditioned for the lead male role of Max in Hocus Pocus. However, despite his undeniable talent and charm, he was deemed off-limits for the Disney production.

Ortega recalled a conversation with his casting team, during which they informed him that DiCaprio had agreed to meet but couldn’t take on the role due to another enticing opportunity. He said, “We want you to know who he is. We want you to meet him. He’s agreed to come in to meet you, but he can’t do the role. He’s being offered a movie with [Robert] De Niro and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”

Leonardo DiCaprio

Why Leonardo DiCaprio Wasn’t Cast in ‘Hocus Pocus’ Insights from the Director (Credits: Marca)

This intriguing episode occurred before Leonardo DiCaprio skyrocketed to fame with Titanic, but he was already recognized by fans of the endearingly corny ABC sitcom Growing Pains, where he portrayed Luke. Ortega vividly remembered DiCaprio’s audition, describing him as “amazing — so extraordinary and unique.” However, the actor expressed his reservations, stating, “I feel bad that I’m here because I can’t do this because I’m really focused on these other things.”

Ortega, understanding the actor’s predicament, shared a sandwich with him, an informal gesture that underscores the director’s appreciation of DiCaprio’s character. The specific type of sandwich remains a mystery, though it’s fun to imagine DiCaprio as a “bison liver on rye” kind of guy.

Ultimately, the role of Max went to Omri Katz, and Hocus Pocus carved its place in cinematic history. As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he embarked on a spectacular career that included iconic roles and numerous accolades. Interestingly, Katz transitioned from acting to a different path and now works as an “ambassador of the cannabis culture,” a unique journey that certainly diverges from the typical Hollywood trajectory.

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