Twenty-nine years ago, a Halloween classic was born with the release of Hocus Pocus. The Disney-made children’s horror-comedy movie is about three witches, the Sanderson sisters, who are brought back to life in Salem, Massachusetts after 300 years and resume their plan to steal the youth of all the children in town. The kids who accidentally resurrect the witches—and then have to face off against them—are a young girl named Dani, played by Thora Birch, her older brother Max, played by Omri Katz, and Max’s crush, Allison, who is played by Vinessa Shaw.
“It basically was everything I could have dreamed of in a movie like that,” Shaw told Entertainment Tonight in 2021. “I also watched The Wizard of Oz over and over again as like a basically five and six-year-old. So this felt like a modern version of The Wizard of Oz for me. It was [one of] my favorite projects I’ve worked on.”
While Shaw is still known for the spooky film she starred in all those years ago, she’s also had a very successful career as an adult. Read on to find out more about her career today, her family life, and her memories of Hocus Pocus.
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Shaw was 17 when Hocus Pocus was released in 1993, and she’d been acting a for while before that. She appeared in the 1981 horror movie Home Sweet Home and was in the 1992 comedy Ladybugs, for example.
Shaw considered walking away from acting when she enrolled in Barnard College. But, after she was cast in Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, it inspired her to take acting seriously as an adult career.
“[T]hat experience really felt like doing a play and going to acting class at the same time, and then to have Kubrick tell you you’re really good, and I can’t wait to see where you’ll go- seals the deal for me,” Shaw wrote during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” in 2014. “And it’s the reason why I’m still around. Otherwise, I think I would’ve done something different in school, and gone on to be a social worker or something. But it goes to show—if you have someone who cares about you—like how Kubrick cared for me—then you can have the courage and confidence to pursue your path.”
In addition to Eyes Wide Shut, Shaw went on to star in the movies The Weight of Water, 40 Days and 40 Nights, The Hills Have Eyes, 3:10 to Yuma, and Side Effects. She also had a recurring role on the TV series Ray Donovan. In 2021, Shaw was in three movies: The Blazing World, We Need to Do Something, and 12 Mighty Orphans.
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Shaw married her husband, Kristopher Gifford, in 2017. The couple welcomed a son, Jack, in 2018. Before he was born, she announced her pregnancy with a Hocus Pocus-themed announcement.
“After a long labor with many complications, Baby Jack was finally born two and a half weeks after his due date on 2.20.2018 weighing in at 9lbs 9oz!!!!” Shaw wrote on Instagram, announcing her baby had arrived. “Needless to say, we are overjoyed about our new little addition!”
The former kid actor shares moments from her life with her husband and son on Instagram occasionally. On Father’s Day this year, she posted a picture of Jack and Gifford and wrote, “Jack is so lucky to have a dad like you. Kindling his curiosity, love for the outdoors, and… empathy. It’s not easy being empathic parents, but we are on our way!”
“I just love that people continue to love this from basically watching it as a kid with their family and then they have kids and it just becomes this multi-generational film that everyone adores,” Shaw told ComicBook.com in 2021. “I couldn’t ask for anything more because I personally grew up watching Disney movies and if I saw Hayley Mills in person, because she was in all those Disney movies back then, I think I would faint.”
She added, “It brought me to basically love filmmaking because, up to that point, I hadn’t really done anything that big. I mean, Ladybugs was pretty big for me to begin with, but three months on the set working on this movie, it just rocked my world.”
Shaw told Entertainment Tonight last year that she was eager to take part in the long-awaited Hocus Pocus sequel, which is due out next month. It was never confirmed that Allison would be back—Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and Bette Midler are all reprising their roles as the witches—but keep your eyes peeled for a possible surprise cameo.