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Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, stars of the seminal horror film “The Blair Witch Project,” released a public letter to Lionsgate on Saturday asking for more robust compensation for their work on the 1999 blockbuster, as well as “meaningful consultation” on any future “Blair Witch” projects that use their names or likenesses. 

The statement comes 10 days after Lionsgate and Blumhouse announced they plan to revive the franchise with a new movie that would provide, in the words of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chair Adam Fogelson, “new vision for ‘Blair Witch’ that will reintroduce this horror classic for a new generation.” Lionsgate did not produce or distribute the original 1999 film. It acquired the property through its 2003 buyout of Canadian independent film distributor Artisan Entertainment.

The Lionsgate-Blumhouse announcement sparked a strongly worded response via social media from Leonard, who said that no one had contacted him or his costars 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,” Leonard wrote. 

Leonard said that the actors — who shot and improvised the independent movie over roughly a week on a shoestring budget, using their real names for their characters — each made $300,000 from a buyout of their ownership points on the film, which went on to gross $248 million worldwide. In 2002, the actors sued Artisan Entertainment for using their names and likenesses in the studio’s 2000 sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”

In their most recent statement, Leonard, Williams and Donahue (who now goes by Rei Hance) call 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 also ask for “meaningful consultation on any future ‘Blair Witch’ reboot, sequel, prequel, toy, game, ride, escape room, etc., in which one could reasonably assume that Heather, Michael & Josh’s names and/or likenesses will be associated for promotional purposes in the public sphere.”

Lionsgate first attempted to revive the franchise with the 2016 sequel “Blair Witch,” which earned $45 million worldwide. The company also operates a Blair Witch-themed Escape room in Las Vegas.

Finally, the actors request Lionsgate create a $60,000 “Blair Witch Grant” that would be bestowed to “an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to assist in making their first feature film.”

A spokesperson for Lionsgate had no comment.

Separately, “The Blair Witch Project” directors Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, producers Gregg Hale and Robin Cowie, and co-producer Michael Monello released a joint statement supporting the actors. 

“While we, the original filmmakers, respect Lionsgate’s right to monetize the intellectual property as it sees fit, we must highlight the significant contributions of the original cast  — Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Mike Williams,” they say in the statement. “As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices, and real names are inseparably tied to ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ Their unique contributions not only defined the film’s authenticity but continue to resonate with audiences around the world.”

The full statements from the cast and the filmmakers are below.

OUR ASKS OF LIONSGATE (From Heather, Michael & Josh, stars of “The Blair Witch Project”):

1. Retroactive + future residual payments to Heather, Michael and Josh for acting services rendered in the original BWP, 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.

2. Meaningful consultation on any future Blair Witch reboot, sequel, prequel, toy, game, ride, escape room, etc…, in which one could reasonably assume that Heather, Michael & Josh’s names and/or likenesses will be associated for promotional purposes in the public sphere.

Note: Our film has now been rebooted twice, both times were a disappointment from a fan/box office/critical perspective. Neither of these films were made with significant creative input from the original team. As the insiders who created the Blair Witch and have been listening to what fans love & want for 25 years, we’re your single greatest, yet thus-far un-utilized secret-weapon!

3. “The Blair Witch Grant”: A 60k grant (the budget of our original movie), paid out yearly by Lionsgate, to an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to assist in making theirfirst feature film. This is a GRANT, not a development fund, hence Lionsgate will not own any of the underlying rights to the project.

A PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM THE DIRECTORS & PRODUCERS OF “THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT”:

As we near the 25th anniversary of The Blair Witch Project, our pride in the storyworld we created and the film we produced is reaffirmed by the recent announcement of a reboot by horror icons Jason Blum and James Wan.

While we, the original filmmakers, respect Lionsgate’s right to monetize the intellectual property as it sees fit, we must highlight the significant contributions of the original cast — Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Mike Williams. As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices, and real names are inseparably tied to The Blair Witch Project. Their unique contributions not only defined the film’s authenticity but continue to resonate with audiences around the world.

We celebrate our film’s legacy, and equally, we believe the actors deserve to be celebrated for their enduring association with the franchise.

Sincerely, Eduardo Sanchez, Dan Myrick, Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie, and Michael Monello



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