Kathy Najimy spilled the tea on her character's departure from the first movie.
When casting the original Hocus Pocus, Kenny Ortega went with three comedians. Bette Midler had starred in a string of 1980s comedies; Sarah Jessica Parker was known for comedy on Broadway at that point; and Sister Act’s Kathy Najimy. Najimy in particular brought a lot of physical comedy to the role, and that’s still true in the sequel. However, one detail had viewers concerned: Mary’s famous crooked smile switched sides between Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2.
Warning: Spoilers for Hocus Pocus 2 follow. Najimy played the middle Sanderson sister, Mary, famous for riding a vacuum cleaner in the first film. She’s also the Sanderson who could smell children when nearby; in the first film, she wandered around with a crooked grin, sniffing and threatening to eat any child who crossed her path.
In Hocus Pocus 2, Mary is back, still sniffing and threatening to eat anyone under 18. But fans noticed something odd happened in the intervening 30 years. Somehow Mary’s crooked smile, which was initially lifted on the left, is now in a fixed perma-grin on the right instead.
But before the hardcore Hocus Pocus fans could get too deep in the fan theories about Mary’s moving mouth, the actor decided to clear up the confusion.
Mary’s mouth quirk was not actually in the original Hocus Pocus script. It was just something Najimy came up with during the first week of rehearsals, and everyone thought it was funny enough that she should keep doing it. Unfortunately, 30 years later, Najimy’s facial muscles were less enthusiastic about recreating the grimace.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Najimy revealed, “It’s on the other side mainly because it’s so hard for me to do it on the side I did it on 30 years ago.” And since the film is a big broad comedy, the idea of it moving from one side of her face to the other without any real explanation cracked everyone up, so she simply switched it. “You don’t have to be subtle,” she said about the film, “or have a 40-page Shakespearean backstory.”
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Not that this will stop audiences from making up reasons for it. “I’m sure the fans are going to go into deep detail about why it’s on the other side,” Najimy said. But before they do, they should know the movie gives a subtle explanation for the change. “There’s a scene at the beginning where Winnie slaps me,” Najimy explained, “and my mouth goes to the [one] side, and then she slaps me again, and it goes to the other side and sticks.”
Please note that putting your smile on either side is officially acceptable for those cosplaying Mary Sanderson this Halloween. Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 are streaming on Disney+.