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Popular TV Show <i>Bewitched</i> Gets Movie Makeover

A popular TV show from the 1960's gets a makeover in a new romantic comedy film co-starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Alan Silverman has a look at the new big screen version of Bewitched.

Isabel Bigelow is a shy, young witch who only wants to experience 'real life' as a mortal; but her plan gets turned on its ear - or, perhaps, its nose - when a ridiculously vain actor, played by Will Ferrell, picks Isabel to co-star with him in a new TV series based on the old TV series Bewitched.

"Everyone wishes they could do a little magic and I think the overall idea of the film is that to fall in love requires a little magic," actress Nicole Kidman says.

She stars as Isabel (who plays Samantha) and she likes the 'show-within-a-show' twist that co-writers Nora and Delia Ephron came up with; but Kidman admits she wanted to do the film because she's been a Bewitched fan since her childhood in Australia.

"I had watched the series as a kid there seemed something quite fun about the idea of having watched something as a little girl and then being able to step into it as a woman and pay homage to it," she says. "In the strangest way, remaking a TV series has far less onus on it than trying to do Portrait Of A Lady. I think the lessons you learn is you do not try to stay within the confinements of what's been set. Even though you're doing a remake, you're able to find another way of telling a story.

The story of the original TV show Bewitched was that mortal advertising executive Darrin married Samantha before he learned that she was a spell-casting witch who could do the most amazing things just by wiggling her nose. As the Hollywood history goes, Samantha got her nose twitch because it was something the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery (star of the TV show) just did naturally. It did not exactly come naturally to Kidman.

"I needed a mirror and a slow-motion VCR [video player]. I would put her nose in slow motion and then I would look in the mirror and try to mimic it. My mom would say 'no, that wasn't very good. Try again," Kidman says.

Co-writer and director Nora Ephron says the story of the film was built around that feature of her Oscar-winning star's face.

"I thought 'wouldn't it be great to make that the lynch-pin of the movie? Wouldn't it be funny if you started with the idea that someone was cast in that role for one reason alone: that she had Elizabeth Montgomery's nose and could twitch it exactly like Elizabeth Montgomery. From that, everything followed: who the guy would be and that she would actually be a witch. It was just one of those ideas that I had very easily. By the way, that was was the last easy moment on the movie," she explains.

The script pokes a lot of fun at Hollywood types and the now popular concept of remaking old movies and TV shows into new films; but Ephron says it is also about romantic relationships.

"Everyone you talk to has a different take on it. Amy Pascal, the head of Columbia Pictures, thinks it is about mixed marriages," the director says. " I think it is about 'can a witch be married to a mortal,' which is to say how powerful can a woman be within a marriage and not threaten the guy in the marriage? That's an interesting story and is still a problem."

Bewitched features Michael Caine as warlock Nigel, Isabel's father who is skeptical of her attempt to live among the mortals; and Shirley MacLaine is a celebrated actress who plays Samantha's mother, Endora, on the TV show - but who has a secret of her own.