If you watched Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches as a child, the news of its remake may send a slight shiver up your spine. In the words of The Guardian, “Roeg’s cruel adaptation of Roald Dahl’s tale of bloodthirsty child-killers remains a remarkably sadistic studio film for kids.” For those unfamiliar with the 1990 Warner Bros. film, it follows the adventures of a young boy who attempts to thwart a coven of witches with the help of his grandmother. The upcoming remake helmed by Robert Zemeckis seems like it might be a little less gruesome, based on its trailer, but one thing is for certain: The most recent adaptation of Dahl’s novel comes with a more diverse roster of filmmakers and cast members. Besides Zemeckis, Kenya Barris and Guillermo del Toro are also credited with co-writing the film, which lists Alfonso Cuarón amongst its producers. Keep reading for a peek into the cast list, complete with comparisons to previous actors that played the main roles, as well as positive instances of inclusion in this adaptation.
The child actor is a relative newcomer whose limited previous credits include the Donald Glover-created series Atlanta. Bruno plays the lead character of the young boy facing the coven, a role previously portrayed by Jasen Fisher. This iteration also includes the voice of Chris Rock as the grown-up version of the character, who narrates the film.
Hathaway’s breakout role in The Princess Diaries speaks to her ability with family-friendly films. And while the Oscar-winner isn’t necessarily known for playing villains, we’re excited to see her take on the role of Grand High Witch, leader of the coven. Anjelica Huston previously played the character and received high praise for her work. “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,” Roger Ebert asserted in his review of the 1990 film.
Spencer also has an Academy Award to her name, as well as experience in family-friendly films such as in Dolittle, Hidden Figures, and Onward. She’s taking on the role of the grandmother, which was previously played by Mai Zetterling, and is another example of an inclusive casting change in this adaptation. And since the remake takes place in Alabama rather than in the UK like its predecessor, Spencer may have felt right at home with the new setting, as a native of the state herself.
Tucci is no stranger to family films or remakes, as evidenced by his work as Maestro Cadenza in Disney’s 2017 live-action feature Beauty and the Beast. He’s also familiar with performing opposite Hathaway, and fans of The Devil Wears Prada can anticipate seeing the two together again in The Witches. In this adaptation, Tucci plays Mr. Stringer, the manager of the hotel at which the witches gather. The role was formerly played by Rowan Atkinson, known for his work as both Mr. Bean and Johnny English in those characters’ respective films.
You only have to wait until October 22 to see how the new cast members, as well as filmmakers, put their unique spin on this latest adaptation of Dahl’s novel. The Witches will have its U.S. streaming release on HBO Max at that time, prior to its international theatrical release on October 28. COVID-19 may have affected a lot of things this year, such as the original plan Warner Bros. had for the film’s release, but not even a pandemic could keep The Witches from reaching audiences just in time for Halloween.