Original Blair Witch Project cast call out studio: ‘Their behavior has been reprehensible’

The trio are calling on Lionsgate for compensation and ‘meaningful consultation’ on future projects

Kevin E G Perry
Los Angeles
Wednesday 12 June 2024 23:40 BST
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The Blair Witch Project - trailer

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The original cast of The Blair Witch Project have called out film studio Lionsgate for failing to meaningfully compensate them for their work on the 1999 horror classic.

“I don’t need Lionsgate to like me,” actor Joshua Leonard told Variety. “I don’t care that they know that I think their behavior has been reprehensible.”

In April, Leonard and his two co-stars Heather Donahue (now Rei Hance) and Michael C Williams released a public letter asking Lionsgate for compensation and “meaningful consultation” on any future projects that use their names or likenesses.

Just 10 days earlier, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group and Blumhouse announced plans to revive the franchise.

In the new Variety interview, Hance says their complaint comes down to a simple financial equation. “Is there value there or not? If there’s value, compensate us accordingly, and if there’s no value, then just stop using us.”

Williams expressed his angst at becoming a public figure while not receiving commensurate payment. “Everybody’s wondering what happened, and your wife is in the grocery line and she can’t pay because a check bounced,” he said. “You’re in the most successful independent movie of all time, and you can’t take care of your loved ones.”

The Blair Witch Project cast Joshua Leonard, Heather Donahue and Michael Williams
The Blair Witch Project cast Joshua Leonard, Heather Donahue and Michael Williams (Joshua Leonard)

Leonard wrote on Facebook after Lionsgate announced reboot plans that no one had contacted him or his co-stars about the project in advance.

“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,” wrote Leonard.

He said the actors each made $300,000 (£242,000) from a buyout of their ownership points on the film, which went on to gross $248m (£200m) worldwide.

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The actors have collectively called on Lionsgate to provide them with retroactive and future residual payments “equivalent to the sum that would’ve been allotted through SAG-AFTRA, had we had proper union or legal representation when the film was made.”

They asked to be consulted on future projects in which their likeness would be used, or any projects where they would be associated for promotional purposes.

The original film follows three American students who decide to go into the Maryland backwoods to cover the mystery behind the Blair Witch incidents. But when they lose their map, things take an unexpected turn. It was shot over the course of one week on a shoestring budget, with the main actors using their own names for their characters.

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