Practical Magic is a perfectly fine late ’90s rom-com, with two charismatic leads (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), strong supporting turns by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest, and the added fun of witchcraft against the backdrop of a lovely seaside town. Yet the movie got lousy reviews—it topped out at 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—which led to less-than-stellar box-office returns. The actresses involved all bounced back in short order, but the directing career of Griffin Dunne, who was attempting to move behind the camera after acting in movies like After Hours and An American Werewolf In London, never really recovered.
In an interview with Vulture, Dunne now reveals while making Practical Magic, he hired a witch consultant:
I had my producer make her a reservation at a nice hotel, and call her, and the witch goes, “You’re not going to buy me off with a hotel room. I want a percentage of the movie. I’m going to have my own Practical Magic cookbook.” She was paid quite well, and she says, “I want an additional $250,000 dollars.” The producer told her that’s just not possible. And she goes crazy and scares the shit out of the producer… She says, “I’m going to put a curse on you. I’m putting a curse on this movie, and I’m putting a curse on Griffin.”
The witch then left voicemail messages in which she spoke in tongues, making for audio so scary that neither Dunne nor the studio’s legal department could bear to listen to the whole thing. So, maybe Practical Magic would have bombed anyway, but who really knows? For his part, Dunne eventually became so wary that he hired an exorcist to rid himself of the supposed curse: “Just to cover my tracks, I did have a little bit of an exorcism. I hired someone to get that person off my radar … while I didn’t give it too much power, I’m open-minded enough to at least spend a hundred bucks on an exorcism.”
Dunne is in the midst of a comeback as of late, in well-received turns on shows like I Love Dick and House Of Lies, and as the director of an upcoming documentary about writer Joan Didion. And he’s noticed that his once-reviled film is having a bit of a resurgence as well.
When my daughter was in her late teens, I started to notice that her friends loved the movie and quoted the movie and would freak out when they found out that her father directed the movie. I watched it grow and grow and it’s been very touching and unexpected. I’ve gone out with women who have watched this movie every year with their daughters. It’s a lovely kind of surprise.
Either that exorcism worked, or some curses just wear off after awhile.