Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down 'Hocus Pocus' Role But His Audition 'Awakened' the Director

Leonardo DiCaprio and Hocus Pocus
Getty Images/Disney

"He’s just the most sincere and most centered and a wild child at the same time."

Turns out, Leonardo DiCaprio offered some inspiration to the beloved 1993 movie Hocus Pocus.

The film's director, Kenny Ortega, reveals that the Oscar winner auditioned for the part of Max, but was too busy at the time to join the cast. Needless to say, DiCaprio left a lasting impression on Ortega.

"The [casting] ladies called me up and they said, ‘We’re sending you an actor today but he’s not available but you’re going to fall in love with him but you can’t have him,’" the director recalls to Entertainment Weekly. "I’m like, ‘Why are you teasing me?’ They were like, ‘You need to see this guy because he’ll inspire you and if nothing else, he’ll help you find the right guy to play Max.'"

Enter a young DiCaprio, whom Ortega says he "completely and absolutely" fell in love with upon meeting him. "He’s just the most sincere and most centered and a wild child at the same time," he remembers. "He was feeling awkward. 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.’"

Those two movies just so happened to be What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and This Boy’s Life, both of which put DiCaprio on the map. "Obviously, he left and incredible things happened for that young man and to this day," Ortega notes. 

The filmmaker says just having DiCaprio audition helped shaped the character of Max that Hocus Pocus fans know and love. "Meeting him awakened me to the kind of spirit and fun and sincerity that I was looking for in an actor," he gushes. "When Omri Katz came around, I fell in love again and he was our Max."

Earlier this month, Ortega dished exclusively to ET about Disney Channel’s upcoming remake of Hocus Pocus, and what it'll be like without Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler reprising their roles.

“I don't think you have to recreate the magic,” he said. “I think you start all over and make new magic.”