Cast and creators of The Blair Witch Project speak up about upcoming Lionsgate/Blumhouse collaboration on reboot

missingposte_20000518_09714.jpg / William Thomas Cain/GettyImages

Back in the summer of 1999, there was no movie more talked about than The Blair Witch Project. It was the little engine that could; a small-budget, independent and very experimental film with unknown actors and a brilliant marketing strategy.

The three actors (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams) were not allowed to attend the film’s premiere at Sundance. Instead, missing posters featuring their faces were distributed at the festival. Their IMDb profiles indicated that each of them was “missing/presumed dead.”

People really thought The Blair Witch Project was real – it was one of the first internet campaigns to go viral, and the general belief was that it was a documentary. There was even a mockumentary on Sci-Fi called Curse of the Blair Witch.

As well as acting in The Blair Witch Project, Donahoe, Leonard and Williams shot most of it themselves during the eight days they spent out in the woods. Since there was not a formal script, each of them was subjected to multiple surprises and scares during shooting, so overall, it was an intense experience.

On April 10, Lionsgate and Blumhouse released a statement announcing they were working together on a reimagining of The Blair Witch Project (which spawned two sequels, Book of Shadows and Blair Witch). And while many fans were initially excited at the news, the three actors who brought the story to life are not.

Heather Donahue Stars In The Blair Witch Project Photo Artisan Entertainment
Heather Donahue Stars In The Blair Witch Project Photo Artisan Entertainment / Getty Images/GettyImages

Joshua Leonard was the first to speak up in a Facebook post, stating that he was proud of their “little punk-rock movie” and expressing appreciation for the fans who been so faithful since the release of The Blair Witch Project. “But, at this point it’s 25 years of disrespect from the folks who’ve pocketed the lion’s share (pun intended) of the profits from OUR work, and that feels both icky and classless.”

Over the weekend, Leonard, Donahue and Williams issued a statement titled “Our Asks of Lionsgate.”  In the statement, the three ask for retroactive and future residual payments, to be consulted on future Blair Witch sequels, reboots, games, toys, and so on, and a $60,000 grant ($60,000 was The Blair Witch Project’s budget) to be administered annually by Lionsgate to “an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to assist in making their first feature film.” The statement clarifies that it is to be a grant, not a development fund, which will prohibit Lionsgate from owning any rights to said film.

Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick, Charlie Sextro, John Nein
2019 Sundance Film Festival - "The Blair Witch Project" Special Screening / Michael Loccisano/GettyImages

The Blair Witch Project's creators Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez, Michael Monello, Robin Cowie and Gregg Hale released their own statement, which reads as follows:

“As we near the 25th anniversary of The Blair Witch Project, our pride in the storyworld we created and the film we produced is reaffirmed by the recent announcement of a reboot by horror icons Jason Blum and James Wan.
While we, the original filmmakers, respect Lionsgate’s right to monetize the intellectual property as it sees fit, we must highlight the significant contributions of the original cast — Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Mike Williams. As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices, and real names are inseparably tied to The Blair Witch Project. Their unique contributions not only defined the film’s authenticity but continue to resonate with audiences around the world.
We celebrate our film’s legacy, and equally, we believe the actors deserve to be celebrated for their enduring association with the franchise.
Sincerely, Eduardo Sanchez, Dan Myrick, Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie, and Michael Monello.”


It remains to be seen whether or not Lionsgate and Blumhouse will respond, but it only makes sense that the original actors be appreciated for the work they did so many years ago, but were never truly compensated for.

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