Kathy Najimy, who starred alongside Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus, says she’s amazed by how beloved the 1993 film has become since it opened to disappointing box office and reviews.
As the 61-year-old actress tells PEOPLE, “It’s a family film about three witches who suck the youth out of children!”
Now, however, she’s often asked to autograph adults’ well-worn VHS tapes of the film “and people are always coming up to me, saying, ‘My mom played it for me and I play it for my kids.'”
Najimy portrayed Mary Sanderson, one of three witches who chase after children. Midler played Winifred Sanderson and Parker depicted Sarah Sanderson.
Looking back on the sometimes “difficult” six-month shoot (involving animals, prosthetics, lots of child actors and flying on brooms), Najimy mostly remembers being starstruck by Midler.
Najimy says long before Hocus Pocus, “I was a huge Bette Midler fan.”
“I once dressed up as a bunny and pretended to have a singing telegram for her when she was appearing at the Hollywood Bowl,” says Najimy. “I sang her this telegram and told her it was from Kathy. And she said, ‘Kathy? Kathy who?'”
On the first day of filming Hocus Pocus, “Sarah and I were standing in the witches’ living room and Bette started humming [her hit 1972 single] ‘Do You Want to Dance?’ Sarah and I just grabbed each other’s hands and held our breath.”
And she says singing backup for Midler during a musical number was a dream come true.
“There I was, singing backup for Bette,” she says. “I was a Harlette!”
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Najimy, who now appears on Veep and is behind a new off-Broadway play Gloria: A Life (about feminist icon Gloria Steinem) and a TV series about the women’s movement, says the actresses all contributed ideas to the witches’ now iconic looks.
“I loved my costume,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I think her hair should be the top of a pumpkin stem.’ So that’s what her hair is, a pumpkin stem.”
Freeform aired a 25th-anniversary special that reunited all three Sanderson witches and costar Thora Birch on Oct. 20 as part of its 31 Nights of Halloween lineup.