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Thora Birch Looks Back on ‘Hocus Pocus’ 25 Years Later, Why She Thinks It Still Translates Today (Exclusive)

Thora Birch in 'Hocus Pocus'
Thora Birch in 'Hocus Pocus'Disney

A virgin lit the black flame candle. That’s how the Sanderson sisters made their historic return in the 1993 hit Halloween movie Hocus Pocus. That’s also how star Thora Birch – who was 10 years old at the time – learned what a virgin was.

“Working on the film was probably my introduction to that word! When I read the script, I remember asking ‘Why does every one care about this word? What does it mean? Why is everyone flipping out about it?’” Birch, 36, told Us Weekly for the upcoming issue on stands Wednesday, July 18, to celebrate the film’s anniversary. “Then it was explained to me and I got in on the joke and I loved it.”

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In addition to the virgin line, Birch says most people re-quote the “yabbos one” – “Max likes your yabbos. In fact, he loves them,” her character Dani said to Vinessa Shaw’s Allison in the film. “That’s probably the biggest quote,” she added.

Thora Birch
Thora Birch

Birch discusses her time with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, her favorite scenes and more in Us Weekly’s full Q and A below:

Us Weekly: Congrats on 25 years! How does it feel?
Thora Birch: I think the most surreal thing is that it keeps getting more popular instead of the other way around!

Us: Why do you think that is?
TB: At least in the last five years, the audience has increased. I think there are a number of factors. It’s tied to Halloween and Halloween’s never going anywhere. People go crazy for it, as do I. It’s also the type of film older sisters and brothers say to their younger siblings, ‘You should like this.’ Or those kids now have kids of their own and feel like it’s something safe and fun to pop on the VCR for their kids. I hate to toot our own horns, but it speaks to the amount of creativity, campiness, humor and the wonderful performances from the three witches and the production value. There’s a mystical element to it that is enchanting. It’s an enchanting movie. I think also, for right now, in this moment – it’s also the female empowerment!

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Us: You were so young. Do you have a vivid memory of it?
TB: Certain films my memory is much more spotty on, but this film has always stood out. It’s probably the most amount of fun I’ve ever had on a set. Like, kid fun! I was 10, it was my favorite holiday and I was a tomboy. I was very sassy just like my character. There was minimal acting required basically on my part. I do actually remember a lot more than I remember in some of my other films I made in that era.

Us: Is there a scene that stands out as a favorite?
TB: Every moment was a blast, but some of my favorites were any time the kids and the cat, or the three kids as I’ll call them, were in the scene with the witches. We didn’t get that many opportunities to be on set at the same time but the sequences in the house, the cemetery, those were incredibly memorable for me because it was the six of us working together.

Us: Are you in touch with any of the cast?
TB: Vinessa and I are still pretty close. We’re actually closer now, in the past couple years. A couple years ago, Omri [Katz], Vinessa and I had dinner on Halloween and that was a fun reunion of our own. We’ve stayed in touch, and I’m friends with a producer, David Kirschner, who is a brain child behind it all.

Us: What did you take away from it?
TB: For me, getting the chance to work with Bette, Sarah and Kathy. They were so nice and warm off screen. It was difficult to pretend to hate them or call them bad names because they were such fun, sweet ladies. I took away the work and dedication they all put into it – Bette especially. She had a dictionary full of Middle English curse words. She was always trying to improve and make it bigger and bolder. She was very dedicated to her craft. As a 10-year-old, I was just there to play on the set but it started sinking into my mind: no, this is work too. These are actors doing a job, and it helped me to start thinking of acting in a different way. I was super super observant and was trying to absorb all that I could and learn from them and that helped me. I treasure that part of my childhood. It provided a lot of great memories.

Us: What do you think the movie would be like if it came out today?
TB: I think you’d have a lot of young girls saying, “Why do the female characters have to be so negative?” I’d like to think that it might have opened better though today. There wasn’t a lot of critical success.

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Us: How do you feel about Disney Channel redoing it?
TB: I don’t have anything negative [to say]! It’s their property so they can do what they’d like with it, as they should. I’m actually excited to see what the take on it will be, what they come up with story wise. I know the fans have more of an opinion about it than I do, but I think it’ll be fun to see what they could do.

Us: What advice would you give to younger stars who are trying to make it and make it last?
TB: You have to know that rejection is not personal. That’s a tough one and it’s easier to say and maybe understand when you’re telling that to a younger person, but the rejection that comes with the industry is not personal. It’s hard not to take it that way. And then the other thing is if you’re not having fun, it’s really not worth it. You have to pursue your passion. If it stops being a passion for you, then let it go. Find something else.

For more of Thora Birch’s interview, pick up Us Weekly’s issue on stands Wednesday, July 18.

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