Robert Zemeckis to Remake ‘The Witches’ – Angelica Huston not Impressed

Nancy Bilyeau
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Anne Hathaway heads up the cast of Robert Zemeckis’ new film, an adaptation of The Witches, based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 novel. The film is set to hit the big screen on October 16, 2020.

Octavia Spencer (The Help) joined the cast in mid-February 2018, with Blackish director Kenya Barris expected to co-write the script with Zeneckis.

Oscar winner Anne Hathaway is reportedly starring as the Grand High Witch, a role played by Anjelica Huston in the first adaptation of the children’s book in 1990. The book is about a boy who stumbles across a coven of witches who secretly inhabit the world — and hate children.

Anne Hathaway. Photo by ONU Brasil CC BY 3.0

Sources say that the new film will be truer to the Dahl novel than its predecessor. According to The Wrap although the 1990 film gained a cult following, it turned out to be a box office flop and was publicly disowned by Dahl shortly before he passed away. The sticking point was that the film changed the ending of his book which he creatively disagreed with.

Variety reports. Octavia Spencer would play the grandmother of Bruno’s character, and Eastick is portraying the other boy who takes on the Witches.

Octavia Spencer

Hathaway last appeared in the summer hit Ocean’s 8, a spinoff of the Ocean’s Eleven movies.

The Witches holds a special place in the affections of those who admire Roald Dahl. Originally published in 1983, the storyline is set in both England and Norway. However, it was controversial from the first, with some critics deriding the book as sexist.

“The Witches is a timeless book and movie about the enterprising strength and brilliance of independent women. At first look, it might seem like a misogynist portrayal of the female sex — positioning them as ugly, cold, and in need of being destroyed in order to suppress their domination of the world — but that is far from the case,” says syfy.com.

Roald Dahl

The site goes on to say that although the goal of the women is to turn all children into mice, the depiction of women working together and supporting each other is a strong image of female solidarity. We shall see which direction this new film will take it in.

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The 1990 film was directed by Nicolas Roeg, and Rowan Atkinson co-starred with Huston. Dahl did not like this version, saying he was “appalled” at “the vulgarity, the bad taste” and “actual terror” in certain parts of the movie.

It took Angelica Huston some eight hours of make up time to transform into the iconic role of  Grand High Witch. When asked by Entertainment Weekly about the remake, Huston was not upbeat about the project, “I don’t really know why because I think Nick Roeg made the ultimate Witches…It was his particular brand of wit and irony that made it what it was.”

Angelica Huston pictured in 2014. Photo by Mingle Media TV CC BY SA 2.0

Roger Ebert said in his review that it was the first film aimed at children directed by Roeg and that the director usually infuses twisted, at times sinister elements to his films, in that case the grotesque depiction of the witches and mice children, who have to face real world predicaments. The result being, in his opinion, Roeg’s movie might have come off as too intense for many young viewers.

Nicolas Roeg. Photo by che CC BY-SA 2.5

Ebert concluded that “The Witches is an intriguing movie, ambitious and inventive, and almost worth seeing just for Anjelica Huston’s obvious delight in playing a completely uncompromised villainess.”

Read another story from us: Mel Gibson to Remake Controversial 1969 Western ‘The Wild Bunch’

The new film was originally the project of Guillermo del Toro, until it migrated to Robert Zemeckis.