Friday, August 26, 2011

Practical Magic: A Victorian House Fit for a Witch

by HOOKEDONHOUSES on OCTOBER 25, 2009

practical-magic-dvdWelcome to Movie Monday, when I feature the houses from our favorite films. You have all been clamoring to see the grand Victorian from Practical Magic, and I can understand why. The house is simply amazing. And when better than Halloween month to feature a home that witches lived in?

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Producer Denise DiNova says that the house where the Owens family of witches lived played such an important role in the story that they decided to build it themselves. “I don’t think we could ever have found a house that could have matched our needs.”

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The story takes place in New England, but the house was built on San Juan Island in Washington State, where the weather would be more amenable for shooting. In these shots from the film, you can see how close the house is to the water.

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It looks like a real house that was built in the 1850s, but it’s really just an “architectural shell” that took 8 months to build and was (sadly) destroyed after filming was over.

Even the flowers in the garden were fake, but you couldn’t tell, could you?

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After their parents die, sisters Sally and Gillian go to live with their aunts Frances (Fran) and Bridget (Jet), played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest:

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The movie was based on the bestselling novel by Alice Hoffman.

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The side porch overlooks the water:

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Derek of Derek M Design tells me that the entire exterior set was built on an old Indian burial ground, so they weren’t allowed to dig there or disturb the site. The entire house was built on a giant platform. Here’s a photo he sent me of it being taken down–you can see that it was “empty” inside:

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Entry:

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The interior sets were all created in a studio in Los Angeles.

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Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play Sally and Gillian, all grown up. Here they are with Sally’s daughters.

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The Pantry:

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The pantry is where the Owens women store ingredients for their magic potions. The props department reportedly filled hundreds of bottles to put inside these glass-fronted cabinets.

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Recognize the little red-headed girl who played Sally’s daughter Kylie? That’s actress Evan Rachel Wood, who grew up to star in movies like Thirteen and The Wrestler, and who infamously dated the scary rocker Marilyn Manson when she was 19 and he was 38. She now has a recurring role on the HBO series “True Blood.”

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Sally’s Bedroom:

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The room is kind of plain compared to the rest of the house. Perhaps because Sally just wants to be “normal.”

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The sisters (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman) have a heart-to-heart about men:

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Sally’s Shop in Town:

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The town they used was Coupeville on Whidbey Island in Washington State. Debi Ward Kennedy says that the production designers painted everything in the town white for the movie. After filming was done, they repainted the buildings their original colors.

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Stocking her new shop with all-natural shampoos and body lotions.

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The Attic:

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The stairs go up from the attic to the lighthouse-like tower:

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Here’s a look down the staircase as the girls run to get away:

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After they accidentally killed Gillian’s boyfriend Jimmy (played by Goran Visnjic, who you may recognize from “ER”), the sisters cast a spell to bring him back to life. Unfortunately, he came back as a kind of zombie who was way creepier and even more evil than the original Jimmy had been. I hate when that happens.

Here he is, confronting Officer Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn) in the attic:

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Gillian in the attic bedroom, possessed by Zombie Jimmy:

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The Parlor:

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They tie possessed Gillian to a chair and plan a kind of exorcism for her in the parlor. They round up women from the town (via the school’s phone tree, of course!) to help them.

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These photos show what the parlor set looked like off-camera:

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From a 1998 article in Victoria Magazine:

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The Kitchen:

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In this photo of the set, you can see how the ceilings were vaulted and beamed:

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From Victoria magazine, a photo of the double doors leading from the kitchen out to the conservatory:

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“The Aga is almost like a shrine,” production designer Robin Standefer says of the gas stove that is the focal point of the kitchen. “This is the place where they do their work; it’s where they place the cauldron.”

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The back stairs that lead into the kitchen:

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Aidan Quinn plays the detective who comes to town in search of Gillian’s ex-boyfriend, Jimmy. (I love Aidan Quinn, especially in this movie!)

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The kitchen’s back door:

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The Conservatory:

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A view of the conservatory from overhead:

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“The house itself has a certain magic to it,” production designer Robin Standefer says. “There is a whole world in this house and garden. These women are outcasts and this place is their sanctuary.”

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Director Griffin Dunne says he was enchanted by the script: “It was literally like a cauldron. Every emotion, theme and ingredient you could imagine was swirling around in it. I particularly liked the women’s use of magic; it comes right from the title. It’s about a more practical, almost holistic approach that seems like a gift that virtually anyone could have.”

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Every Halloween, the Owens women dress up like witches and jump off the roof with their umbrellas:

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Practical Magic fans knows that the best fan site on the Internet is Amas Veritas. You can find a lot more information there, including floor plans for the house and drawn elevations that were used for building it. I found a few of these photos there.

Others are from a Victoria Magazine photo shoot in 1998. And the rest were ones I took while watching the movie (all rights belong to Warner Bros).

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This brings our month of Halloween movie posts to an end. Did you miss any of them?

Visit my TV/Movie Houses page for links to all the others I’ve featured so far, from Something’s Gotta Give to Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

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