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“I don’t know that we’ve had a reunion at all,” admitted Goldberg alongside her co-stars Kathy Najimy, Wendy Makkena and the film’s music supervisor Marc Shaiman.
Najimy and Makkena say the film had a big impact on future career opportunities.
“He’s responsible for my whole career,” Najimy said of Shaiman. The actress and musical director also worked together on Hocus Pocus.
Describing her audition process, Najimy recalls the key advice Shaiman offered her. After singing her audition song, Shaiman requested Najimy sing something else, where she surprised him with an opera song. “He said, ‘Do that! Don’t do anything else,” laughed Najimy.
Meanwhile, Makkena’s singing audition didn’t go as smoothly, “When I first read, I just read without singing. … [Producer] Scott Rudin came out the elevators when I finished and he said, ‘That was terrific. Do you sing?’ and I went ‘Sure!’” In her next audition, it was requested that she sing a girl group song. Terrified, Makkena admitted she hired three back-up singers, only to have it fail. “They burst through the door and they drowned me out,” she said.
Meanwhile Goldberg wanted to avoid singing in the film. “I had no intention of singing,” she revealed. Shaiman worked to rectify the situation by pairing Goldberg with Jennifer Lewis and Charlotte Crossley to sing alongside her.
“I knew that these two ladies had the perfect sense of humor, besides musicality, to make Whoopi just feel comfortable,” said Shaiman.
On his role for the film’s music Shaiman joked, “It’s show business, so they called the Jew and I got the job done.”
With the film being shot in Reno, the cast explained they had some wild times.
“We shot in Reno, and we didn’t have enough room in the trailers, so we were put in hotel rooms. Cathy and I would get a little bored,” said Makkena. She and Najimy would gamble and walk around in their character costumes, to avoid anyone recognizing them.
The castmates also enjoyed playing pranks on room service, placing porn on the television screen when room service came into their room. “He came and I said to him ‘No come in a little further. Roll it in,’” laughed Najimy. ‘She said she’d pay me a hundred dollars if I didn’t laugh and I failed,” added Makkena.
Harvey Keitel made a surprise appearance, stating, “When Whoopi calls, I come.”
To honor the film, Keitel surprised Goldberg with a present. “There’s a scene in the movie where I give Whoopi a present of a fur coat. But he forgot to take his wife’s name out of the coat … but here’s a coat for you,” Harvey says to Goldberg. The coat included an embroidered message reading, “Whoopi, Love Harvey.”
Although not present at the reunion, Sister’s Superior Maggie Smith recorded a special message to her former castmates, also quipping about her age. “I feel as if I’m the oldest nun left,” joked Smith.
“I can’t believe she wanted to do the movie! I said, ‘You’re Maggie Smith, what are you doing here?’ and she said, ‘Darling, I have to eat,’ and she also said, ‘I have to act, and I want to be here,’ “ reflected Goldberg.
During the reunion, Goldberg also admitted that the film was originally intended for Bette Midler, but she turned the role down. “Bette couldn’t do it, so she turned it down and they kinda went through a hundred million people, then got to me,” jokes Goldberg.
Makkena and Najimy are now guest-starring on various shows including Veep, Younger and NCIS. Shaiman is working on the upcoming Mary Poppins revamp.
At the end, the cast performed the film’s version of “I Will Follow Him.”
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