Alongside notable names like Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr, and Dwayne Johnson, actor Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the foremost names in Hollywood. Although the famed actor has received only one Academy Award for his work in The Revenant (2015), DiCaprio has graced screens since Critters 3 (1991). The 48-year-old has given unforgettable performances in a vast array of work, including What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). However, it wasn’t until he appeared alongside Kate Winslett, Kathy Bates, and Billy Zane in James Cameron’s epic film Titanic (1997) that DiCaprio became a household name.
Playing Jack Dawson, who lucked his way onto the doomed ship, Titanic opened the golden doors of Hollywood for Leonardo DiCaprio. Being young and good-looking, helped by his depiction of the romantic stowaway, Leonardo DiCaprio quickly joined the likes of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and James Van Der Beek as one of America’s newest heart-throbs. Although other young, promising talent of the time found themselves eventually at work with entertainment companies like Disney, Leonardo DiCaprio took a different approach in his career.
DiCaprio would see wild success working with Hollywood elites like Martin Scorsese. In fact, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese would work a lot together, similar to the relationship between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Together the two would create films such as The Departed (2006), Gangs of New York (2002), and Shutter Island (2010). Although Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio enjoyed much success, leading up to the hyper-popular 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio’s resume has been peppered with various A-plus caliber work like J. Edgar (2011) and The Aviator (2002), a biopic highlighting the early years of famed director and flyboy, Howard Hughes. Although Leo was an obvious mainstay, working with fantastic talents like Robert Deniro and Quentin Tarantino, DiCaprio, who was in high demand, had never worked directly with Disney. That doesn’t mean he never had an opportunity. In fact, DiCaprio was offered one of the lead roles in 1993’s eventual Disney hit, Hocus Pocus.
Hocus Pocus featured a few big names, including Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson and up-n-comer Sarah Jessica Parker as her ditzy, blonde sister. The film, which premiered in the summer of 1993, told the tale of three Salem witch sisters who had an insatiable appetite for children. The sisters, expelled to live in the forest as any good witch should be, find themselves at the mercy of the townspeople in Salem once they kidnap Emily Binx. Once their initial plans are foiled, the witches are hung, but not before they can lay one last curse, allowing them to return once a virgin lights the black flame candle. Of course, 300 years later, trying to impress a girl, Max Dennison makes the mistake of lighting the candle, ultimately leading to the return of the Sanderson Sisters, who spend the night running amok all over Salem.
Thirty years later, the cult-classic Halloween film would receive a sequel on Disney+, bringing Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Doug Jones, and Kathy Najimy back to Salem. However, one noticeable missing character (as he was released from his curse in the first film) is stand-out Thackery Binx. The older sibling of Emily, who Winifred cursed to live out eternity as a black cat in the first film. Initially played by the young Sean Murry, viewers of the original Hocus Pocus noticed, keeping true to the early 90s, the character, although garbed in the traditional clothing of the time, looked an awful lot like one rising star in Hollywood. This wasn’t an accident. As young girls were plastering their walls with photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Disney ensured that Thackery resembled the teenage tigers. Although Thackery served his purpose in alluring young girls to the screen to see Hocus Pocus, Disney set their sights on another name to play darling Max Dennison, only this time they didn’t settle for second-grade, they wanted DiCaprio.
In an old interview with Variety, Leonardo DiCaprio let slip that Disney offered him a ton of money to play Max Dennison in Hocus Pocus. DiCaprio obviously didn’t take the role, as Omri Katz is who saved Salem from the wicked witchy sisters. However, it wasn’t due to Disney’s lack of interest. DiCaprio was quoted as saying that Disney offered him “more money than I ever dreamed of.” Citing his existing commitment to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, DiCaprio went on to say that he didn’t know how, at such a young age, he was able to turn down the Disney role. As a Disney feature film in the 90s almost always meant immediate success and professional growth, DiCaprio seemed surprised that he had the where-with-all to turn down the mega-company.
It seems that Leonardo DiCaprio knew something that others didn’t. Initially, Hocus Pocus wasn’t the phenomenon it is remembered as today. Instead, it was met with mixed reviews and raised its loyal following years after its release. In a decade when Disney released massively successful projects like The Lion King (1994), saying “no” would’ve seemed like career suicide. However, DiCaprio did, carrying on with his original commitment to Arnie, the lovable, disabled brother akin to Johnny Depp in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, earning him an Academy Award nomination for best-supporting actor.
Not to worry, time has been great for both Hocus Pocus and Leonard DiCaprio. Although DiCaprio has only received one Academy Award, he has been the recipient of several nominations and the winner of many Golden Globes. As for Omri Katz, who’d eventually take the role of Max Dennison, he went on to appear in a few other projects, but nothing of note. DiCaprio, on the other hand, has become a king in Los Angeles. With a net worth of over $300 million, it’s safe to say that turning down Disney and Hocus Pocus wasn’t a bone-headed decision. While Leonardo DiCaprio is no longer enjoying “domestic bliss” alongside ex-girlfriend Camila Morrone, he continues to be a “must have” name in Hollywood.