Joshua Leonard in 'The Blair Witch Project'

Original ‘Blair Witch’ Cast Asks for Residuals Following ’25 Years of Disrespect’

With another reboot of The Blair Witch Project in development at Lionsgate, the stars of the 1999 horror hit are asking the studio to finally give them the fair compensation they deserve.

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The Blair Witch Project remains one of the most successful horror films of all time—directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick and starring a trio of unknown actors, the film cost less than $100,ooo to make and went on to gross over $280 million at the box office. Unfortunately, stars Joshua Leonard, Heather Donahue, and Mike Williams haven’t seen a dime in residuals over the past 25 years. After Lionsgate announced plans to team up with Blumhouse to “revive” The Blair Witch Project, Leonard took to social media to call out the former for essentially icing out the original filmmakers. In the April 11 post, Leonard explained that each of the stars received a $300,ooo buyout from Lionsgate that ensured they wouldn’t receive residual payments. At the time, the three actors weren’t members of SAG-AFTRA and didn’t have legal representation to negotiate their deals; no one thought The Blair Witch Project would become such iconic IP.

In a follow-up post over the weekend, Leonard and his co-stars released a statement outlining three requests for Lionsgate, starting with retroactive and future residual payments in line with what they would’ve received if they had union backing:

The second ask involves “meaningful consultation” on any future Blair Witch projects, including movies, interactive products, and events. Considering that both attempts to continue the franchise—2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and 2016’s The Blair Witch—flopped at the box office, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with the people who made the first film … you know, the one that was a massive hit? Finally, the cast is asking Lionsgate to establish an annual $60,000 grant, in line with the budget for the 1999 film, awarded to “an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to assist in making their first feature film.”

Along with their requests, the cast included a statement of support from directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, along with original Blair Witch producers Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie, and Michael Monello. The biggest hurdle will be getting Lionsgate to do the right thing ethically despite having no legal obligation to compensate Leonard, Donahue, and Williams based on the deal they originally signed. Lionsgate has the opportunity to do the right thing and come out looking like Good Dudes at a time when studio execs continue raking in record profits despite making horrible decisions that prioritize capital over creatives. Don’t be a bunch of Zaslavs, Lionsgate.

(featured image: Artisan Entertainment)


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Author
Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.