We Can't Keep These 25 Secrets About Casper Hidden Any Longer

From on-set crushes to the last-minute change to the film's ending that resulted in Devon Sawa's casting, we're celebrating Halloween with these Casper fun facts.

By Tierney Bricker Oct 31, 2021 10:30 AMTags
Watch: Have You Seen Devon Sawa or Sean Murray Lately?

"Can I keep you?"

All these years later, that line still gives us all the feels. When it was released in May 1995, no one expected Casper to become one of the year's biggest hits. Made for $55 million, Casper, which starred Bill Pullman and a then-14-year-old Christina Ricci went on to gross $300 million and became one of Universal Studios' most beloved properties in the '90s. And the friendly ghost ended up haunting audiences in the best ways, going on to become one of spooky season's most iconic staples. 

But did you know the original version didn't include movie-goers getting to meet the human version of Casper, played by Devon Sawa, who would go on to become one of the decade's biggest teen heartthrobs? Oh, and that infamous line wasn't in the initial script.

Helmed by first-time feature film director Brad Silbering and produced by Steven Spielberg, a lot of changes were made when the story of the world's friendliest ghost made the jump from the comic strip to the screen, including losing a beloved character who would later be played by Hilary Duff

photos
All the Boy Bands You Completely Forgot About From the '90s

Here are 25 fun facts you might not know about Casper, including the surprising person who re-wrote the ending, the secret on-set crush, all of the scenes that were cut to keep the budget down and the failed attempt to make a sequel...

1. Alex Proyas, known for directing The Crow and Dark City, was initially attached to direct, but left the project just a few months before filming was set to begin due to creative differences.

"Casper seemed to be an opportunity to do a really great kid's film with some real solid emotional resonance," Proyas told CBR.com in 2008. "Unfortunately, it started to move away from its potential at some point and that's the reason I politely bowed out." First-time director Brad Silbering was then brought in. 

2. Casper was the first film to have a completely computer-generated character in a lead role.

3. While the original comics never gave Casper a real origin story (he was born a ghost to ghost parents), the movie decided to give him a tragic backstory: He died of pneumonia when he was a young boy due to the cold weather, leaving his inventor father devastated.

4. Pullman took the role of the widower Dr. Harvey for one special reason. "That was one I really remember looking forward to taking, so that I could bring my kids to the set," he told The A.V. Club in 2020. "They were right at the perfect age to enjoy all the magic of that."

5. Casper was voiced by child actor Malachi Pearson, who auditioned five or six times before he was brought in for a final test with the whole cast and filmmakers. Pearson's expressions were filmed when he read the lines on-set, "so they could combine that with their own gestures that they thought Casper would do," Pearson told the Chicago Tribune in 1995.

6. The original script ended differently, with the audience never seeing Casper as a human...meaning we would've been denied the iconic Devon Sawa reveal. And we can thank a young J.J. Abrams for the "Can I keep you?" scene, as the Star Wars director was brought in to "write an alternate ending for a movie in 94," Sawa revealed on Twitter in 2018. "The ending was approved and a nationwide casting call was launched. I sent a VHS tape down to casting directors and a week later booked the role of Casper. I've been working ever since. Thanks JJ."

7. Sawa was intimidated by Christina Ricci when he first met her before he had officially won the role of human Casper, admitting to Vulture, "She had a little bit of a 'I'm the boss around here' vibe. But she warmed up quickly. We had chemistry right away, I think. We clicked as friends really quickly."

8. Ricci and Sawa were also love interests in Now & Then, which also came out in 1995. And it was Ricci who recommended Sawa for the role of Scott Wormer.

"I credit her for getting that role," Sawa recently told E! News. "We got along quite well in the small amount of time I did work on Casper. We are the same age and I ended up going and doing school with her while I was there. I worked one or two days, but I was there for maybe two weeks. She just remembered and recommended me and I put myself on tape and I got it. We hung out a lot during the shoot."

9. Well, it may have been because of puppy love, as it was later revealed by Now & Then star Thora Birch that there was a bit of a "contest" on set for Sawa's affection, with Birch going on to say Ricci won. But Sawa denied the crush claim, telling E! News, "No, I didn't know. I think I was 14 or something like that. They were all so lovely, all four of them."

10. In order to get A-listers like Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood to make quick cameos in the film, producer Steven Spielberg assured them he would also be making a cameo in the same scene. The only problem? Spielberg's cameo was ultimately removed from the final cut, with Silbering telling Entertainment Weekly, "I had to tell Steven, 'You're not the strongest of the group … [he] was sort of relieved. He felt compelled to do the cameo since he asked for favors, but he's not an actor. Doing the cameo, he was as nervous as anything."

11. Pullman once revealed he had the "hardest physical scene" of his career in the film.

"I know it's supposed to be silly, but I had a sword fight with the ghosts and I have a toilet plunger…this was in the day before everything and I had to do it backwards, up a stair case fighting against three people who weren't there.'"

12. The two main characters were given the last name Harvey as an homage to to the company that created the original comic series, Harvey Comics.

13. The original version had a big musical number planned, with the Ghostly Trio of singing "Lucky Enough to Be A Ghost." But the idea was ultimately cut to keep the budget down. 

14. Another idea that was scrapped was a fun Poltergeist reference, with Zelda Rubinstein initially set to reprise her role from the classic 1982 horror film. "We pictured her shooting out the chimney, screaming 'Go toward the light!"' screenwriter Deanna Oliver told Entertainment Weekly.

15. Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett voiced Fatso, one of Casper's three troublemaking uncles.

16. Spielberg almost cast Ricci, who was coming off of her scene-stealing turn as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family, in his 1993 hit Jurassic Park, ultimately going with Ariana Richards.

17. Tennis balls were used as stand-ins for the ghosts in scenes where Ricci and Pullman had to speak to Casper or one of the trio. 

18. A scene of Kat finding a photo of the Ghostly Trio in human form was cut from the final version of the movie.

19. The Backstreet Boys filmed the music video for their hit song "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" in the same mansion from the film.

20. Because the studio only wanted to buy the rights to one of the original comic book characters to save money, plans for Wendy the Good Little Witch to be in the movie were scrapped, though the filmmakers paid homage to the character by having Kat wear a red hood in one scene.

21. Three years after Casper's release, the ghost would meet the little witch in the 1998 direct-to-VHS sequel, with Hilary Duff, then 11, donning the red cape.

22. While there were plans for a live-action sequel directed by Simon Wells, Universal cancelled them in 2000 after the lackluster success of the direct-to-VHS follow-ups and Ricci having reservations about returning to the role. 

23. In 2018, Ricci revealed Casper was the first of her movies she had shown her then 3-year-old son Freddie, who had a hilarious reaction.

"He started asking me about my childhood with my best friend, the ghost," Ricci recalled to People. "And we were like, 'Oh! Too soon.' For a while, he was asking me a lot about ghosts and living alone with my dad and being a ghost and we were just like, 'Oh no!'"

24. Sawa made headlines in 2017 when he tweeted he was ready for a Casper sequel. "Hello Universal, ya it's me Devon.... Sawa... Sawa with an S," he wrote. "Never mind, I'm ready to come back and do another Casper... yes the ghost!"

25. Sherri Stoner, the film's co-screenwriter, served as the reference model for both The Little Mermaid's Ariel and Beauty and the Beast's Belle when the animators were creating the Disney princesses. 

(Originally published on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. PT)

Watch Daily Pop weekdays at 11 a.m., only on E!.