The director of cult classic family film Hocus Pocus has told how central character, Max, was inspired by the teenage Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kenny Ortega said that he “fell in love” after seeing the young actor read for the role, but was told he would be unable to fill it as he was up for another film – award-winning 1993 hit What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
The part was finally played by Omri Katz, who starred alongside Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the evil resurrected witch sisters.
While casting for the teenage character, Ortega said he was contacted by colleagues who said they wanted him to see a particular young man who would help give him a clearer picture of Max.
He told Entertainment Weekly magazine: “They send me in a young Leonardo DiCaprio, who I completely and absolutely fall in love with.
“He’s just the most sincere and most centred and a wild child at the same time.
“He was like, “I just feel really bad being here because I’m up for two other movies and I really want them both and I don’t want to lead you on”.”
Ortega said that he reassured the teenager, now an Oscar-winning star aged 42, that he knew he was unavailable as he was being considered for parts in This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
He continued: “Meeting him awakened me to the kind of spirit and fun and sincerity that I was looking for in an actor and when Omri Katz came around, I fell in love again and he was our Max.”