“Blair Witch,” the sequel to the 1999 thriller “The Blair Witch Project,” is now out in theaters. For those who enjoyed the horror film that tricked everyone into thinking it was a true story, it’s a great blast from the past. But for others like Heather Donahue, star of the original film, news of the sequel initially brought back some bad memories.
Donahue wrote a piece for The Guardian where she described how the marketing department for the first film faked her death to sell the movie and the emotions that followed as the picture got bigger and she was left in the dark.
“My obituary was published when I was 24. It’s a complicated thing to be dead when you’re still very much alive and eager to make a name for yourself,” she wrote. “ I was the girl. The girl from ‘The Blair Witch Project.’”
Being “dead and alive at the same time has its advantages,” she continued, as she watched her life unfurl without her.
“On a brutally hot July day, the 1984 Toyota Celica I bought with my temping pay when I moved to LA overheated (again), only this time it happened under a billboard with my face on it,” she recalled. “I sat there, under my enormous face, waiting for the car to cool down, thinking: ‘Surely this will work out?'” After doing an interview with her hometown paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, she shared the story, and jokingly said, “I’m like the poorest new famous person in America!”
The marketing department didn’t find this so funny and told her she couldn’t say things like that. To make it up for it, they sent her a fruit basket.
While making the movie for Donahue was “a joy,” she was upset that she didn’t get credit where credit was due. “While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead,” she added, and then the truth that they were alive was eventually revealed.
After that experience she felt stagnate and a few year later she moved out of Los Angeles to a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills where everyone knew who she was. While trying to make a new name for herself, she then found out about “Blair Witch.”
“On learning of the sequel, I did what any sensible woman would do and drank very nice bourbon in a very nice bathtub while bawling my eyes out,” she explained. “Nothing I do will ever surpass what I did at 24. My name and face are forever going to be someone else’s intellectual property. My snot-flooded portrait was back. It’s all anyone wanted to talk to me about. I bawled more. Refilled the bath. Stared at the wall.”
Though this time around she was surprised by the accommodating ways that Lionsgate handled her participation in the franchise and fully supports the new film.
“The company that originally bought ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was purchased by Lionsgate and they’re the ones behind this new sequel,” she wrote. “They asked what they could do to show me how much they appreciated my work in the original. They made sure my last name wasn’t used anywhere. In their press materials, their protagonist goes in search of his ‘sister’ but they don’t use my name. For all the talk of Hollywood being populated with jerks and sharks, these guys were actually being considerate and were genuinely concerned that this would not be any more disruptive to my life than was inevitable.”