CS Visits The Set of Blumhouse’s The Craft: Legacy!
It seems like a lifetime ago that Comingsoon.net flew to Toronto at the invitation of Sony/Blumhouse to visit the set of their movie The Craft: Legacy. The film is a continuation of the 1996 teen-coven-classic The Craft. In the before-times, aka November 21, 2019, we were driven to the Cinespace Film Studios in Kleinburg Ontario. There we saw what kind of spells were being cast by director Zoe Lister-Jones and spoke with her young coven of stars: Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale, On the Basis of Sex), Zoey Luna (Pose, Boundless), Lovie Simone (Selah & the Spades, Greenleaf), and Gideon Adlon (Blockers, The Mustang).
The studio where this magic, based on real practices but invented for the purposes of this film, actually happens has been around since the late 50s. We enter and are greeted by smoke. Fighting the instinct to run away from a smoking building, we press on, and later learn that the smell is Red Cedar: it’s part of a ritual being performed on-screen.Our first glimpse of the set reveals a teenage bedroom where three young witches attempt to call the corners of North, South, East, and West, but unfortunately, they’re missing a fourth witch to properly invoke them.
The original film featured another trio of witches in search of a new member, starring Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True. They find their fourth in Robin Tunney, and the coven unleashes a power that seems to heal all the wrongs in their personal lives, but of course comes with a heavy price. There was revenge, magic, fabulous outfits, and a great soundtrack.
The Craft endures because of those things, yes, but also goes beyond them to touch on something much deeper. Amidst the spells and power fantasies, this was a film that showed a picture of teenage-bonding that was markedly different from other teen films of the 90s. These girls struggled with the traumas of self harm, racism, abuse, and formed a support system with each other to try and cope.
“I’m just so deeply honored to be handed this torch because it was such a seminal film for me, having come of age in the 90s as a real weirdo,” director Zoe Lister-Jones told us. “I shaved my head when I was 12, and was bullied as any young girl with a shaved head would be. And so The Craft, of course, spoke to me as I think I spoke to so many people who felt outside of the norm.”
Sitting cross-legged on a very convincing teen bedroom floor, three of the leads in The Craft: Legacy begin calling the corners again. There have been a few takes of this moment, as Lister-Jones adjusts the pacing and attitude of the girls’ interaction.Lourdes leads the chant, while Tabby and Frankie struggle to keep up. One of the witches laments having to call on the power of the South, as it’s full of “white colonist assh*les.”
Right out of the gate the question of whether the progressive politics of the original film will be present in this sequel is put to rest. “I think part of what I also wanted to represent with this film,” Lister-Jones explains, “was the hope that I feel seeing what youth culture is pushing in the face of so much bullying, and the oppressive culture that they’re witnessing.”
A smart, self-aware script is one thing, but finding the kind of on-screen chemistry present in the original movie is a tall order. The search for the new witches led to the casting of Spaeny, Luna, Simone and Aldon, who all practice “varying degrees of witchy stuff” according to their director. “At their chemistry read, they came in and after—I didn’t know this about any of them—after they finished, they all had crystals in their pockets and in their bras, and were pulling them out.”
Between takes we are led off-set to production offices where we get a chance to talk all things witchy with the coven. Spaeny joins us and it’s our first glimpse of her. She’s wearing a crown of pearls. She explains the outfit is part of a scene in which her character, Lily, gets ready for a party with her coven.”Lily’s element is water,” she says, telling us to keep an eye out for pearls and water droplets incorporated into her fashions.
Lily is the all-important fourth witch of The Craft: Legacy, who Spaeny describes as kind of a loner. ”Her best friend is her mother. She hasn’t really had friends her own age at all.” Like Sarah (Tunney) in the original film, Lily is “moving into a whole new life with brand new people, starting a new school and then when she meets these girls, everything changes.”
One of the most charismatic personalities Lily encounters is Lourdes. She is played by Luna, a similar force of nature, who brings up the energy in our windowless interview room just by entering it. “It was extremely important for me to be in this movie,” she says, “because, I mean, obviously I’m trans and there’s not that many trans people who are in film that aren’t just a f**king sex worker who get killed at the end. I’m doing this for the kids, I’m doing this for the little girls that grew up and didn’t have someone to look up to…and my character, she’s f**king fabulous. And I think that she is opening up a lot of doors.”
Lourdes’ element is earth, which is fitting for Luna, who is animated as she describes her goals for her career, but firmly grounded in her sense of self. “I never came out looking to be an activist,” she tells us. “I came out looking to be free and to be myself. For years, people told me who I was or who they thought I was. And when I came out, it did come with a lot of media attention and it came with me having a voice.”
Luna began her activism on the part of the trans community at the age of 12, and was discovered by a filmmaker that would go on to document her life in the reality series Raising Zoey. “I am able to be an activist while also simultaneously being able to produce my meaning into the world by creating art, movies, television,” she says, an artistic privilege she is awed by.
Lister-Jones confirmed that those same themes were always planned to be a part of The Craft: Legacy: “It includes topics around a trans-inclusive and intersectional feminism.” For her, it’s a natural evolution of the original film. “I think in the way that the first one was very much ahead of its time, because it was intersectional in many ways, I think including a trans voice in this group of young women was really important to me.”
The next element, fire, bounds into the interview room in the form of Simone, who plays Taby. “I was intense, yeah,” she says, laughing after relating a story of her earliest memory of witchcraft. Simone’s magical roots stretch all the way back to the second grade. While in the cafeteria with her friends, she attempted, somewhat successfully, to control the volume of the room with her mind. This led to a fascination with collecting crystals.
“I kind of take crystals with me everywhere I go, I’ll show you guys some,” she says offhandedly. Like a close-up magician she produces a collection from various pockets and scatters them across the table while calling out their names: opalite, moonstone, rose quartz, jade and selenite. The opalite is her favorite, “for the third eye chakra.” she explains. “Intuition.” She smiles at the milky smooth stone and purrs, “yeah, she’s nice.”
Rounding out the elements is Frankie, who is “air.” Aldon describes her character as a “mix of DJ Khaled and badass feminist energy. She’s worldly. She’s kind of always the goofball. But when it’s time to get down and serious, she understands and she can flip that switch.” Like Simone, Aldon’s connection to magic runs all the way back to her early childhood.
“I mean, my grandmother’s a witch, my Mother’s very spiritual. I’ve been a crystal child since I was six years old. So I always dabbled in things like that. But I’ve never done witchcraft, I don’t think I’ll ever cast spells. I don’t think I want to mess with the universe if the universe isn’t messing with me.”
For Aldon, the original film made her “feel so cool” because she was always the “weirdo” and the “outsider” at school. “I was bullied,” she tells us, explaining that she had a hard time until she found her own group of friends, her own coven. “I think that really gives space for teenagers to be like, it’s OK. I don’t even think those girls [from The Craft] are weird. They’re unique, they’re artistic. They’re one with the universe.”
In between interviews we’re led back to the set, where we hear the sounds of the cast singing “Science Fiction/Double Feature” between takes. This relaxed but joyful feeling extends to the interactions between the Lister-Jones and her leads. “Awesome you guys, really good,” she tells Luna, Aldon, and Simone. The director is dressed in wide-leg purple trousers, a crop top and a sleek bob. An image of effortless cool with a retro 90s edge, she projects a determined, confident, authority. “I love the ad libs at the top,” she enthuses to her cast.
It’s clear that Lister-Jones, whose first foray into writer-director work was on the darkly funny film Band-Aid, is giving her actors the freedom to be themselves. After all, who is more of an expert on being and sounding like a teenage girl than a young cast barely clear of their own teenage years?
Amidst the technical crew chatter about monitors and shouted commands, we hear the director and cast finish talking the scene through. “Thank you,” Lister-Jones tells her nearly-complete coven. They all return her thanks before readying themselves for the next shot.
“I think a story that centers on young people, and young women specifically coming into their power in today’s current climate is really important to me in terms of giving voice to narratives that sometimes have otherwise been marginalized,” Lister-Jones says, “Representing young people and young women authentically, and really showcasing the struggles that young women are up against. Creating a world that really feels current and fresh.”
We’re then told we’re about to get our first look at the complete coven: all four of our witches in one scene. The girls are filling a table with a number of sacred objects and candles as the camera pushes in for an overhead shot, an echo of the opening from the original film. More smoke emanates from the scene, smelling very much like the red cedar that greeted us upon our arrival. The cedar is a specific choice according to Erin Fogel, the on-set witch consultant.
“I’ve spoken a lot with the props team around what it’s OK for us to use. And we haven’t used any white sage,” she explains. White sage has come under fire, literally and figuratively, in recent years due to its overuse in the mainstream, divorcing it from its Indigenous, religious roots and leading to shortages of the crop through overharvesting.”We’re using red cedar because we’re in Ontario and that’s what grows here. And it grows in abundance, so it’s not harmful.”
This kind of awareness is a large part of Fogel’s job, to honor the traditions of witchcraft while not exploiting them for the purpose of the film. Another part of her job is to make sure that “any energetic spaces that are opened through the practice [of spellcasting] in the film are also closed at the end of the day.” This somewhat explains why we heard one of the cast members exclaim, “you don’t want to open up a ghost on the set” earlier.
Andrew Fleming, the director of the original film and an executive producer on The Craft: Legacy, reportedly said that during the filming of the 1996 film’s ritual on the beach, the tides began to behave strangely and wiped out the entire set.
The same strange vibes returned during this production, according to Fogel. “There was another location they were working on for some scenes I wasn’t directly a part of, and I think two or three days after they were on set there I got a call,” she said. It was executive producer Daniel Bekerman who told her: “‘I don’t really know how this works, but could you come and, like, help us do something in this space?’”
Fogel explained that apparently people had been experiencing some strange energy on-site, including crew who didn’t consider themselves “open” to sensing energy or spirits. They allegedly “described having a sort of heavy feeling on their chest, or just having like a really strong, visceral reaction.”
Fogel ended up doing a cleansing ritual the next morning. “I learned that it used to be a hospice for many years,” she recalled, “but the night before I had a dream about the space. And when I got there, it looked exactly the same as it had in my dreams.” Following the ritual, the Bekerman told her he “felt a lot better.”
“Magic is real,” Lister-Jones told us in no uncertain terms. She worked with several witches as she crafted her screenplay. Bri Luna, known as “The Hood Witch” advised her how to incorporate Brujeria and Hoodoo Voodoo traditions, specifically. Pam Grossman, author of “Waking the Witch” and host of “The Witch Wave” podcast also consulted.
”I wanted [the cast] to each come from traditions that were representative of the varying communities that practice witchcraft,” Lister-Jones said. “Without naming them specifically, I wanted to make sure they were sort of ‘in the ether.’ That we were seeing witchcraft means so many things to so many different communities, and is still so stigmatized.”
Spaeny felt that the original film took the stigma out of being a witch for young girls. “It opened up doors for that for a lot of women, and [The Craft: Legacy] kind of has for me, too. This whole process has opened my eyes to witchcraft in general.” She and her castmates performed rituals as a way of solidifying their bonds, involving affirmation candles, full moon rites, and karaoke. “You know,” Spaeny says in a lower voice, “a lot of people who are close to me, a lot of older people, are really scared for me to do this project. I’m from Missouri.”
We watch on set as the coven films the last scene of the day we will get to see. The girls are helping each other get ready for a party, and they’re debating the use of their newfound powers. A bully they worked some magic on has apparently now seen the error of his ways, as one of the coven says, aghast, “he called himself cisgender in 7th period!” Taby emphasizes that they still need to “talk through everything we do.” Lily, for her part, seems distracted—perhaps not taking the need for a more thoughtful approach to magic seriously enough. Perhaps a harbinger of trouble to come?
We leave the studios a handful of hours before the crew will come to strike this set and rebuild a new one for tomorrow’s shooting. Walking into the late night air, one thing is abundantly clear: The Craft: Legacy aims to be an exploration of how the teen girls of today form bonds around witchcraft, and what that means to them. It is heavily influenced by the original film, but also seeks to build on its themes.
For Lister-Jones, “It’s really just about showcasing young women in all of their glory, and in ways that we might not have seen before,” she said. “About women in communities supporting each other rather than turning against each other.”
The Craft: Legacy will be widely available on PVOD this Halloween for a 48-hour rental period as well as premium digital purchase in North America starting midnight October 28.