13 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of "Hocus Pocus" From Billy The Zombie
While Doug Jones has had a long and varied career in films and television, he's still fondly remembered as Billy Butcherson, the good-guy zombie in 1993's Hocus Pocus. Jones spoke to BuzzFeed about the unusual audition process, the deleted scenes we never got to see, and the curse word that almost made the final cut.
1. The audition was at a dance studio.
That makes sense if you know that Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega — also responsible for the High School Musical series — is, as Doug Jones put it, "huge in the dance world." Also, the character of Billy only had one line in the original script, which meant there wasn't really anything for Jones to read. "For the role of Billy, he really wanted to see a physicality and what choreography he could throw into that character to make it a more visual piece," Jones explained. "So he gave us a scene to act out of waking up from 300 years of being dead. 'Stand up, give us what his walk would be, get from point A to point B. When you get to point B, crumple down and look up at Winifred and tell her off. Give me something.'"
2. And whatever Jones did worked, because he had them laughing right away.
"I remember, as I wasn’t even halfway across the floor yet, from point A to point B through this choreography, [Ortega] and the assistant casting director were laughing, tilted heads back, laughing, grabbing their sides laughing," Jones said. "I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought, this was going pretty good. As it turned out, before I even got home, the call came to my manager that they really wanted me in the movie, so I was tickled pink."
3. This was Jones' first major role in a studio film. His biggest credit before Hocus Pocus: Batman Returns.
4. Yes, Billy is supposed to be a hot zombie.
5. Despite being a huge Bette Midler fan, Jones couldn't stop laughing when they first met.
6. That cut scene in the park had Billy pining after Sarah.
7. Another regrettably cut scene: Billy's dance break.
8. Part of why Jones was so excited to meet Midler is that her advice had gotten him through tough times in the past.
9. After Hocus Pocus bombed, Jones felt like his big break was over.
Given how often (and lovingly) we talk about Hocus Pocus now, it may surprise some that the movie was a box-office flop. Then again, it had a lot going against it — namely the fact that it was a Halloween movie released in July, against major summer blockbusters. "When we were making this, this was one of my first feature films ever, so I was thinking, OK, this is the one, this is gonna be the hit that takes me to the moon," Jones confessed. "It did not do the box-office figures at all that we had hoped for, and kind of went into obscurity in the theatrical box-office world. Not knowing what would happen in the future, I thought, There was my big chance. It’s over." Of course, it wasn't.
10. Years later, Jones realized that the film had become a cult classic.
11. While much of Hocus Pocus' cult status is owed to home video and TV airings, Jones also believes audiences are now more receptive to fantasy and horror.
12. But back to the one line Billy had in the original script. It was actually just a single word: "Bitch."
13. Jones didn't like that, so he changed it, creating one of the film's most memorable moments.
"That was a conversation that I wanted to have with Kenny Ortega on the night that we shot that scene," Jones said. "And I told him, I’m not comfortable just throwing the B-word out when our audience is going to be kids expecting a Disney happy movie. There’s gotta be a more creative way that’s actually going to sell this movie better than that. So the line that I ended up saying was one that I came up with by myself. Kenny approved it, loved it, and that’s what stayed in the movie. And that’s when I cut my mouth open, coughed out the moth and the dust and said, 'Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed, mop-riding, firefly from hell!'" In the end, Billy's big moment — still quoted by Hocus Pocus fans 20 years later — was pure Doug Jones.