A still from 'The Blair Witch Project'
(Artisan Entertainment/Lionsgate)

‘The Blair Witch Project’ Cast Is Finally Demanding To Share in the Film’s Success

1999 horror flick The Blair Witch Project is regarded as a landmark film in the genre, both for the use of its found-footage technique and its compelling storyline.

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Reportedly shot on an original budget of $35,000, the film went on to gross close to $250 million worldwide, becoming one of the most commercially successful indie movies of all time. However, despite being deemed a sleeper hit and raking in massive profits, the cast allegedly wasn’t fairly compensated, according to a recent interview with Variety.

In a recent exchange with the magazine, Rei Hance (born Heather Donahue, changed to Rei Hance in 2020), Michael C. Williams, and Josh Leonard revealed that they received fruit baskets from Artisan Entertainment (the film studio that acquired the movie for $1.1 million following its successful Sundance premiere) after The Blair Witch Project reached the milestone of earning $100 million at the box office.

The only major compensation that came the cast’s way was a settlement of roughly $300,000, which they received as a result of a lawsuit against Blair Witch’s distributor. The trio sued the distributor after their old footage was used without permission in the sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. In a bid to escalate the situation and bring the alleged injustice to light, Josh Leonard made a lengthy Facebook post on April 21, 2024, requesting Lionsgate (they acquired Artisan in 2003) to clear “retroactive + future residual payments” for the three actors that would meet SAG-AFTRA union standards. The social media post included an open letter signed by Leonard, Hance, and Williams.

The actors say they were also treated unfairly due to the decision to market the film as a true story, with the premise being that the three characters were real people who actually disappeared, with their footage being found later. This led to the trio not being invited to the film’s Cannes Film Festival premiere, in addition to being discouraged from appearing in the press and giving interviews.

The Blair Witch Project’s cast’s allegations highlight the importance of fair standards for the treatment of workers, which Hollywood unions recently went on strike to fight for. Unfortunately, the Blair Witch actors didn’t have union protection when the movie was made, but when studios and distributors rake in profits off of the work of writers, actors, and other workers in the film and TV industries, the only reason for those profits not to be shared with the people who truly generated them is greed.

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Evan Tiwari
Evan is a staff writer at The Mary Sue, contributing to multiple sections, including but not limited to movies, TV shows, gaming, and music. He brings in more than five years of experience in the content and media industry, both as a manager and a writer. Outside his working hours, you can either catch him at a soccer game or dish out hot takes on his Twitter account.