feature film was originally planned as a traditional tv-to-film remake
directed by actor/director Ted Bessell (Donald on That Girl).
The film property was in pre-production with producer/director Penny
Marshall’s team at Paramount in the mid-1990s. Marshall first hired
former Laverne & Shirley staff writer Monica Johnson to
come up with a script. Eventually, Richard Curtis (Four Weddings
and a Funeral) took a crack at the story, as did Broadway playwright
Douglas Carter Beane. His 1996 stage reading cast Cynthia Nixon (Miranda
on Sex and the City) as Samantha.
After the sudden and unexpected death of Mr. Bessell
from an aortic aneurysm on October 6, 1996, all Bewitched feature
film plans were halted, until Penny Marshall later teamed with producers
Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick’s Red Wagon Entertainment at Sony/Columbia
Through the following years, the names of actresses Cameron Diaz, Kristin
Davis, Lisa Kudrow, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, and Reese
Witherspoon had been bandied about in considerations for the coveted
role of Samantha Stephens. However, the Sony Bewitched project
remained locked in limbo with a pile of rejected screenplays from
a few more writers including Ellen Simon (One Fine Day), and
Laurice Elehwany (My Girl, The Brady Bunch Movie).
the Bewitched movie became a Nicole Kidman/Will Ferrell
vehicle about a witch named Isabel in Hollywood has been told
in various press releases and TV interviews (on Oprah, The
View, Charlie Rose, etc.) and reported on web sites
and in Hollywood trade papers.
The project’s thaw from its previous deep freeze
came in 2003 when Oscar-winning actress and life-long Bewitched
TV show fan Nicole
Kidman expressed genuine interest in Sony’s long-shelved
Bewitched film remake property. Sony/Columbia Pictures’ chairman
Amy Pascal reportedly then called her friend Nora
Ephron (When Harry Met Sally) and pleaded for
a pitch…a plot…anything to ensure Kidman would
finally commit to the Sony film with successful romantic-comedy producer/director/writer
Ephron on board helming the project.
Nora Ephron told the press that
she decided on an original approach, far removed from the traditional
retread or parody-style remakes. She devised the idea that Kidman
would play a new witch looking for mortal love who gets cast
in a Bewitched television show remake simply because she (like
Kidman) had a nose that resembles Elizabeth Montgomery’s famous twitcher!
Bewitched was to be Nora Ephron’s first film endeavor in the
five years since she produced, wrote and directed Paramount’s $63
million dollar John Travolta/Lisa Kudrow vehicle: Lucky Numbers
(an unlucky flop with global box-office of approximately $11 million.)
Soon after, Hollywood trade papers
would announce that Nicole Kidman had signed a “play-or-pay deal”
for $17.5 million – ensuring that even if the film stalled again for
any reason, she would still get her star salary.
the spring of 2003, former-television-actor-turned-film-star
Jim Carrey reportedly met with Nora Ephron and Nicole Kidman over
dinner in Manhattan to discuss the proposed Bewitched film’s
co-starring role. He eventually decided not to play the washed-up
film actor defeatedly returning to television in Ephron’s backstage-of-a-new-Bewitched-TV-show-within–the-movie
screenplay, co-written by Ephron’s sister Delia.
Jim Carrey chose instead
to star in another remake, Sony’s Fun with Dick & Jane,
a film with a planned Fall 2005 release that was subsequently pushed
back to Christmas.
New Line Films’s Elf was
released after Carrey nixed Bewitched, and it became a huge
2003 Holiday season hit. All eyes were on Will
Ferrell as a new comedy
star and box-office earner. Ferrell was offered the part and gladly
accepted. The Kidman/Ferrell teaming was officially announced in the
trades on February 5, 2004. Ferrell’s writing partner Adam
McKay was soon brought
in to doctor the script and punch it up with some Will Ferrell-slanted
Within months, Ferrell’s Anchorman
film co-stars Steve
Carell and Fred
Willard were announced in the trades as being cast as Uncle
Arthur and Dr. Bombay, with his Elf co-star Zooey Deschanel’s
real life boyfriend Jason
Schwartzman signed on to play his smarmy agent Richie - a
character strangely resembling Kidman’s ex-husband Tom Cruise’s role
in the film Jerry Maguire.
Ferrell’s other Elf co-star
Sedaris initially auditioned, was not offered, and then eventually
hired for the cameo role of Gladys Kravitz in the film’s final moments.
She had originally expressed interest in playing the role of Aunt
Chenoweth was added to the cast as the witch’s neighbor friend,
after Nicole Kidman reportedly enjoyed Chenoweth’s performance as
Galinda in Broadway’s witchy musical Wicked, which opened on
Broadway in Fall 2003.
MacLaine and Michael
Caine were announced in the roles that would most emulate
Endora and Maurice, Samantha’s TV parents. The role of the warlock
father was reportedly crafted by the Ephrons with only Michael Caine
in mind. Shirley MacLaine
(who had been in semi-retirement in New Mexico for several years)
told press that she “wasn’t much of a fan of the TV series,” but had
taken the film role because she “wanted to play a witch.” It is assumed
that Ephron catered to MacLaine’s request and allowed her character
to also be a sorceress, since the April 2004 script copy had the Iris
character just written as a mortal diva actress cast as the new TV
Endora. Nora Ephron explained
in the Sony press release: “(Shirley) really enhanced the role in
a major way. She had a very clear sense of who that person had to
be in order to keep the people who loved Endora happy.”
Harpies Bizarre's Bewitched
Movie Script Review.
After Joan Plowright dropped out of the project,
her previously announced role of Aunt Clara was next offered to 48-year-old
British actress Imelda Staunton, who was getting rave reviews in Fall
2004 for her role in the Mike Leigh film Vera Drake,
which would earn her an Oscar nomination. Staunton told Hello!
magazine that her response to Sony’s offer was,"I'm sorry, but I've
just had the best job of my life, and I don't particularly want to
use it to turn up as the token mad Englishwoman in a very big American
film." After Imelda Staunton passed on Clara, the role went to Kristin
Chenoweth’s Broadway co-star Carole
Shelley, who left her role as Madame Morrible in Wicked
for a week in Hollywood shooting her scenes.
Executive Producer Lucy Fisher was quoted in the
Sony press release as saying, “(Nora) has a great nose for actors
and everyone wants to work with her. I think we got our first choice
with every person in the movie.”
Bewitched Forever author
and original series historian, Herbie J Pilato, met with Nora Ephron
in Los Angeles to consult on the screenplay and offer pre-production
suggestions on making the feature’s fantasy dynamics more compatible
with the original series. Pilato left Ephron and her creative team
with copious notes on the story elements that he felt Bewitched
fans would most likely enjoy and not enjoy.
Herbie J Pilato's Script
Filming began late Summer 2004 at Sony’s Culver
Studio stages, with Los Angeles-area location shooting at the Sunset
Strip’s Book Soup bookstore, Pann’s restaurant in West LA, Santa Monica’s
ocean walk, Pasadena’s Bed, Bath and Beyond store, and a home in the
Hancock Park neighborhood.
Into the Fall, the cast and crew
of Bewitched reportedly enjoyed a comfortable film shoot with
gourmet catering on the set and weekend dinner parties hosted by director
and ex-food critic Nora Ephron. A Halloween 2004 promotional broom
“from the cast & crew of Bewitched” was sent out to the media
to peak their interest in Sony’s upcoming summer comedy.
Bewitched tv producer/director William
Asher and his wife Meredith were invited to the Culver City film set
to play guests in a wedding scene. Photos of Kidman in a wedding dress
with the Ashers in view were released to the international media.
Kidman was reportedly delighted to meet “Elizabeth Montgomery’s husband”
and in January 2005, she again met with the Ashers near their home
during a trip to the Palm Springs International Film Festival where
Kidman was being honored.
“Coming Summer 2005” teaser trailer was released in late Fall 2004
showing Nicole Kidman flying on a broom wearing a red sleeveless dress
and heart necklace, twitching her nose like TV’s Samantha in full
close-up, and dragging Will Ferrell across the sky as he comically
hung from her broom while dramatic new cues of the old TV theme played.
This very traditional Samantha/Darrin motif was carried over into
all the film posters that were released by Sony.
Bewitched film wrapped by Christmas 2004, and their Culver
Studios hung a congratulatory banner on the studio wall saluting the
cast and crew.
A rough cut of the Bewitched film played
to test audiences in early Spring 2005 and the comment cards revealed
that audiences wanted “more magic” and “scenes with magical family
members.” Michael Caine was flown back to LA from London for re-shoots
and added scenes, with the Dr. Bombay and wedding (with the Ashers)
scenes eventually cut from the final film. Originally slated for a
July 8th release date, the film was shuffled to a June 24, 2005 opening,
away from the July competition of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise’s
War of the Worlds and Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate
Sony launched an official
Bewitched movie web site, and soon movie tie-in promotions
and products began popping up online.
Spring 2005, full trailers were being released showing U.S. audiences
what the film really offered in terms of plot, and revealing that
this was not a traditional remake and featured new characters and
story. The international trailers from Sony were a bit more candid
in their approach.
press junket for the film, Nicole Kidman told interviewers that she
greatly enjoyed the laughs and playfulness on the set with her funny,
down-to-earth, family-man co-star Will Ferrell, whom she also found
to be pleasantly quiet and cerebral. Kidman also said she absolutely
adored her time acting with Michael Caine. Will Ferrell said he was
thrilled to have worked with Nicole Kidman and Nora Ephron.
The morning of the film’s June 13, 2005 World
premiere at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theatre brought sad news to Nicole
Kidman, who learned that her long-time makeup man and friend Robert
McCann had unexpectedly died the prior evening. Putting on a brave
face, Kidman arrived for her red carpet premiere duties only to be
confronted by a belligerent photographer. Visibly upset, Kidman was
photographed scolding the paparazzi. Bill and Meredith Asher and Erin
“Tabitha” Murphy were in attendance for the film’s premiere.
night of Bewitched in Los Angeles had sold-out showings with
audiences cheering for the film’s opening title sequence (featuring
the TV show’s familiar font) and applauding the film’s use of clips
from the original television series.
The long-awaited $85-million-dollar-budgeted
Bewitched feature film earned $20 million dollars on its opening
weekend. Due to mostly mediocre reviews and poor word of mouth, the
film earned $62 million dollars at the domestic box-office and was
gone from theaters within 10 weeks. However, the film performed better
across the globe with more than $65 million dollars earned in countries
familiar with reruns of the original TV series.
At the behest of executive producer Penny Marshall,
the film’s end credits featured a dedication to the late Ted Bessell.
film’s DVD launch came in time for Halloween 2005, and featured bonus
materials of star interview segments (previously seen during summer
TV Land and WB promotional Bewitched TV-show marathons), as
well as audio commentary and deleted scenes (however, the reported
Dr. Bombay scene with Fred Willard arriving on an elephant was not
Nora Ephron (who acted as producer, writer, director – as well as soundtrack
producer on the Bewitched feature film) was the only person
to speak on the supplemental DVD audio commentary: