'The Blair Witch Project' Cast Fights for Fair Compensation After 25 Years
Variety Magazine
Movie

Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard, the original cast of the 1999 indie sensation, are calling out Lionsgate for failing to meaningfully compensate them.

AceShowbiz - In 1999, "The Blair Witch Project" became a cultural phenomenon, grossing $248 million worldwide on a budget of just $35,000. However, the film's lead actors, Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard, have recently come forward to reveal the limited financial compensation they received.

In an interview with Variety, the actors described operating the cameras and sound equipment themselves and improvising much of the film's dialogue. Despite the film's success, they continued to earn low wages. "We were all struggling to pay the rent," Leonard said.

After the film's release, the actors received a modest "performance bump" in the low five figures, but their careers remained stagnant due to casting directors assuming they had simply played themselves. The studio also used their identities and likenesses in merchandise and sequels without their consent.

In 2000, Donahue rallied Williams and Leonard to sue Artisan Entertainment, the original distributor. They eventually settled for $300,000 each over several years. However, Haxan Films, the production company behind the film, reportedly earned between $35 million and $40 million.

The actors say they are not seeking revenge but fair compensation. "Is there value there or not? If there's value, compensate us accordingly, and if there's no value, then just stop using us," Donahue said.

They have called out Lionsgate for failing to inform them of the upcoming reboot of the franchise and have demanded "meaningful consultation" on any future projects that might use their names or likenesses.

Williams expressed his frustration at being unable to provide for his family despite the film's success, "Everybody's wondering what happened, and your wife is in the grocery line and she can’t pay because a check bounced. You're in the most successful independent movie of all time, and you can't take care of your loved ones."

The cast stressed that they remain proud of their work in "The Blair Witch Project" but believe they were treated unfairly. The film's enduring legacy, they say, should not come at the expense of the actors who made it possible.

Lionsgate has not yet responded to the actors' demands. However, Williams remains optimistic that their story can inspire others, "Giant corporations don't care that this happens to young artists. It's bulls**t. And that's got to change somehow. Hopefully, we will help somebody to see: Don't do what we did."

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