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 Casper's 25h anniversary with these fun facts

By Tierney Bricker May 27, 2020 12:00 AMTags
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"Can I keep you?"

25 years later, that line still gives us all the feels. 25 years ago today, Casper was released, with the film inspired by the Casper the Friendly Ghost comics going on to become one of the year's surprising hits. But that infamous question almost didn't make it into the movie. 

Made for $55 million, Casper, which starred Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci, then 14, went on to gross $300 million and became one of Universal Studios' most beloved properties in the '90s. 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? 

Directed 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 by played by Hilary Duff

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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," he said. "Unfortunately, it started to move away from its potential at some point and that's the reason I politely bowed out."

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 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. "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. "I thought I blew it so bad, I told my mom, 'I don't think I got this one! This one's over,'" he recalled, only to receive a phone call the same day that he has secured the voice part.

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 JJ 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 nation wide 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 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 in Now & Then. "We'd spent a week together doing school for Casper. I'd worked about a day and a half on the film, but we'd done school together," he explained to Vulture. "And we clicked and got along and she recommended me. You'd have to ask her why, but it was a very sweet thing to do."

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. "I plead the fifth," Sawa said.

9. In order to get A-listers like Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood to make quick cameos in the film, Spielberg assured them he would also be making a cameo in the same scene.

10. 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 ultimately 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 EW.

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 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 those plans 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 three-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.