Witchcraft has long been conceptualized as a uniquely feminine pursuit. In the 1690s, women were hanged for failing to conform to Puritan norms; now, during the era of the Trump presidency, there is a gendered frenzy in the market for crystals, tarot decks, and other metaphysical goodies. So it feels appropriate that this week sees the release of The Craft: Legacy, a sort-of-sequel, sort-of-remake of the cult classic 1996 film The Craft. Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, the new film takes after the original in its focus on four young women who come together to reclaim their power in the face of a world that they feel has wronged them. Unlike in the original, though, the girls of the new Coven find their friendships to be a source of power—not their undoing.
In The Craft: Legacy, Cailee Spaeny plays Lily, the new-girl protagonist, whose arrival portends big changes—and bigger consequences—in the lives of all four witches. In reality, the events of the movie were almost as life-changing for Spaeny as they were for her character. Growing up in the Midwestern Bible Belt, where witchcraft wasn’t something people talked about, Spaeny never saw the original Craft, much less dabbled in magic herself. Talking to Spaeny now, it’s clear that’s no longer the case. With habits ranging from full moon baths to morning affirmations, the 23-year-old actress now makes a daily ritual out of nurturing appreciation for herself—and that’s pretty magical, if you ask me. Read on for Spaeny’s thoughts on quarantine, chemistry reads, and the Chanel beauty product she can’t live without.
How are you doing? You're in New York, right?
Yeah, I'm in Brooklyn. I quarantined for four months in L.A. with my boyfriend's mom in Sherman Oaks, and then stayed there for a little bit, and then we went to our apartment in Brooklyn. We were going to move, but we were like, “Definitely not going to move in the pandemic!” So we just renewed our lease and it's been really nice here.
What have you been doing during the last seven months?
Obviously for everyone, it's been such a whirlwind. I think there's been just a lot of time for us all to look inward—maybe too much looking inward. Self-analyzing, which is something I do a lot already. But it became a lot of time of just like, “What am I doing with my life? What does this all mean?” In the first month I was like, “This will be a chance to settle down,” and I was cooking a lot, and watching musicals were really helpful for me on dark days. Like, Singing in the Rain really turned it around for me. So that's what the first month sort of looked like, and then it became just like, I need to do something with myself. I was doing a lot of phone therapy or FaceTime therapy with my therapist, once or maybe sometimes twice a week, and that was super helpful. I also made a quarantine-safe movie a couple months into the pandemic with the director of The Craft, actually.
What was that like?
It was all improv. She comes from a comedic background, and I had never done anything like that. We did a movie about the end of the world, and I was her metaphysical younger self coming back to her and telling her all the things she needed to do, all the people she needed to apologize to and tie loose ends with before the meteor came and blew up the planet. It was really funny. We literally just made it day by day—there was no script for it, I just showed up at her house and she’d call up a friend of hers, and they would pop out on their balcony and we'd be on the street and we’d do a whole improv scene together, and then we just made a little movie. I don't know what's going to happen to it, but definitely in that time it was super cathartic. And then all the Black Lives Matter protests were happening, and I was going to those with my boyfriend in L.A. I feel like after all that time of self-reflecting, then came time to put all of our energy into action in any way that we could. So definitely active in that in L.A. and in Brooklyn. And lots of Zoom meetings. Now I'm doing chemistry reads over Zoom, which doesn’t really make any sense.
I imagine it’s hard to gauge chemistry through a screen.
I have no idea how to do it. Also, you can see your face on here, so I'm always like, “I don't want to see myself act!” But something that's been nice about it is that it's really taken the veil down from all the higher-ups and the bosses and the producers and the directors that was always there when I went to go meet them in the studios. Now we're on Zoom calls and you hear their baby in the background screaming, and it's like, “Oh, we're all in this together. You’re a real person too.” So that’s been sort of nice.
Yeah. It feels really special that The Craft: Legacy is coming out in the middle of all this, because I think that this is a time that people have been doing a lot of sort of spiritual exploration and either literally or figuratively exploring magic and what that means to them. And on top of that, as with the original, it's also a movie with a lot of anger in it about, like, “Why is the world the way that it is?”
Yeah, I totally agree. I actually feel like it's a great time for the movie come out, because I hope that people are staying home on Halloween, and kids and teenagers can find something fun to do. And I think that this is a great film to watch during this time. Like you said, I do think that Zoe Lister-Jones used this iconic ‘90s teen film as a vehicle to say something a little bit more than the original did. I think it was revolutionary during that time for certain things, but it's nice to put this story in women's hands. Most of the heads of the departments were women—woman DP, woman producer, woman set designer, costume designer—and I think it comes through in the film. And this version, the women aren't turning on each other. They're coming together to harness the power their powers to fight off the greater evils and the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and I love that about it, and I hope it comes through.
They're coming together to harness the power their powers to fight off the greater evils and the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and I love that about it.
Were you a fan of the original before you made this movie?
I’d actually never seen it! I come from the Bible Belt, and that sort of stuff wasn’t really in my world. I feel like all the cool kids saw The Craft. Like, Gideon Adlon definitely saw The Craft. She's from L.A,, and that was totally her vibe. But everyone who I told that I had this audition who was older than me was like, “You can't fuck this up. This is a big deal. This means so much to me, and it changed my life.” And I think it was so cathartic at that time for young women. Like, young women weren't shown as angry in movies, or shown with this real anger towards the world. So that had to be very moving and obviously memorable, and it changed the landscape in so many ways. But I'm excited to see what our movie adds to the story.
Like you said, there’s also that additional element of power in taking this thing that was so meaningful for so many girls and women growing up, and then putting it in women's hands.
Yeah, I totally agree. It almost seems like a no-brainer. I think that's how Zoe felt when she had the opportunity to write her own version. And I know she's talked about how it was really fun for her to make a genre film, because it gave her a lot of opportunity to have social commentary around it with it still being fun and light and still having the teenage angst and fashion and magic. I think that the fun is still there. And I really genuinely did fall in love with all these girls, and they're so unique in their own way, and I think that comes through. Also, what this movie did for me—and maybe it'll do for young women—is tapping into witchcraft and how, again, being from where I'm from, that was such a scary word. And why is it scary? Because the history of witchcraft was single women in these small towns living in their power and being connected to the earth and their sexuality. And I've implemented that into my routine in quarantine: I do full moon baths, and I use candle therapy, and I have my crystals now. I did reiki, which was super healing. It’s really all centered in self-love.
Tell me a little bit more about like what magic looks like for you.
Yeah, I mean, I closely follow the Hoodwitch, Bri Luna. She’s so amazing, and she actually was a witch consultant for The Craft. She always puts out different articles on your auric field and protecting yourself. I think because there is so much going on in the world, and every day we wake up with something new and shocking in the media, I think it all starts with how we're taking care of our mental health at home. So it's really been so helpful for me to implement thing. Like, I went into Prospect Park a month ago and had a little full moon ritual by myself and wrote down all the positives in my life and all the things I wanted to let go. The thing with religion is that you do a certain amount of steps and then you're accepted, but really anyone can be a witch. It's very self-determined, which I love.
I feel like there’s also this sort of link between witchcraft and skincare with all its potions and ointments as a sort of form of self-care.
Yeah, I love that. I'm taking these everyday moments that could be so mundane and using them as practice of self-love. I've added morning affirmations while I'm moisturizing, and when I'm making my coffee in the morning, I stir my sugar or honey in a certain way while I’m saying what I want from the day. At first I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, if it was going to work for me, and it might sound corny to some people, but it's really changed me in a lot of ways, and I feel so much more grounded and connected.
What does your skincare regimen look like right now?
Being indoors, all the recycled air really messed me up, so I had to really put some love back into my body and skin. I had the most insane skin during quarantine—when I moved back to Brooklyn, I was here for a night, and I woke up, and my whole entire right side of my face was filled with cystic acne. I really had to go back to the drawing board with my beauty routine and break it all down, so for me I had to cut out any sort of oils and go back to the basics. I felt like a 14-year old again, buying Cetaphil. [LAUGHS] Vitamin C serum has been such a lifesaver for me on healing the hyperpigmentation. I love Beautycounter’s vitamin C serum—that's the one that I fell in love with a lot. And I'm also using their resurfacing peel at night. I'm also using anything super moisturizing because it's getting cold right now. I've been using Chanel's Hydra Beauty mask which I go to sleep with, which has been good. Obviously sunscreen. I actually made it a goal for me to not wear makeup at all during quarantine and to really accept myself without makeup and what that feels like. And it's been challenging but also rewarding, because now I actually like the way I look better sometimes about makeup.
That's really satisfying.
Yeah, it is. It’s a good accomplishment.
Photographer: Cooper Sebastian